23 Mar Haemochromatosis – UK’s most common genetic condition
23rd MARCH 2021
Haemochromatosis – UK’s most common genetic condition
Haemochromatosis is a condition which results in too much iron being stored in the body, building up over many years. About 10% of the iron you eat is absorbed unless you have Haemochromatosis and absorb 30%. It is the UK’s most common genetic condition, directly affecting over 380,000 people.
HEALTH RISKS OF HAEMOCHROMATOSIS
Excess iron is extremely toxic in the body and if left untreated can cause liver disease, cancer, heart disease, chronic fatigue, diabetes, severe joint pain, sexual health issues, neurological issues and premature death..
Anyone living with haemochromatosis have the following significant health risks:
WHICH GENES CAUSE HAEMOCHROMATOSIS?
The most common genes involved are called the HFE gene which is important in regulating iron levels in the body. There is a clear connection between people of Celtic descent and genetic haemochromatosis. Randox Health measure and calculate (as standard) 5 tests for iron from your blood sample including; Iron, Ferritin, Transferrin, Transferrin Saturation (TS) and Total Iron Binding Capacity. We can also test to confirm if your iron overload is genetic by testing for the HFE gene.
MOST COMMON SYMPTOMS OF HAEMOCHROMATOSIS
If you have haemochromatosis then the build-up of iron in the body will happen slowly and symptoms do not usually appear until a person is aged 30 or 40 years old. According to the British Liver Trust, when symptoms do appear, they may include the following:
- tiredness, fatigue or lack of energy
- a feeling of weakness in your limbs
- pain in the joints, especially in the knuckles and in the joints of your first two fingers
- pain in your stomach or abdomen
- loss of libido (sex drive) and possibly
- impotence or early menopause
- evidence of liver damage from scarring (fibrosis) and cirrhosis
- cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle)
- type 2 diabetes
- a yellowing or ‘bronzing’ of the skin
HOW IS HAEMOCHROMATOSIS DIAGNOSED AND TREATED?
The most common way to diagnose haemochromatosis is through a ferritin test. This is a blood test carried out by Randox Health which measures iron stored in the body. Any patients who have higher ferritin (above 1,000 micrograms per litre) may require closer monitoring, as they are more likely to develop long term problems.
Currently there is no cure for haemochromatosis but there are several treatments that can reduce the amount of iron in the body and reduce the risk of damage.
According to the NHS guidelines, the two main treatments are:
- Phlebotomy – a procedure to remove some of your blood; this may need to be done every week at first and can continue to be needed 2 to 4 times a year for the rest of your life.
- Chelation Therapy – where you can take medicine to reduce the amount of iron in your body; this is only used if its not easy to regularly remove some of your blood
Unlike some other disease treatments, you do not need to make any big lifestyle changes, but it is advised to avoid eating breakfast cereals containing added iron, iron or vitamin C supplement and drinking too much alcohol.
CONTROL THE FUTURE OF YOUR WELLBEING THROUGH RANDOX HEALTH
Measuring Iron alone is not enough because the deficiency and the overload cause similar symptoms to present in the body over time. The personalised data we gain through our health checks show the absorption binding transport and storage of iron in your body. We can also identify anaemia, the condition of too little iron or irregular iron absorption or storage.
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Katie Coyle talks Haemochromatosis
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