Do you have Haemochromatosis?

Four key members of staff at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny attended a public meeting in the Pembroke Hotel, Patrick Street to alert people to the importance of considering haemochromatosis as a diagnosis when people are suffering from chronic fatigue and joint pain.

Four key members of staff at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny attended a public meeting in the Pembroke Hotel, Patrick Street to alert people to the importance of considering haemochromatosis as a diagnosis when people are suffering from chronic fatigue and joint pain.

All four speakers work in the Hepatology Unit in St Luke’s and explained that Haemochromatosis is an iron overload disorder and is one of the most common but under diagnosed hereditary disorders. It is more prevalent in Ireland than anywhere else in the world. And they gave up their time to alert people to the importance of considering haemochromatosis as a diagnosis when people are suffering from chronic fatigue and joint pain.

Haemochromatosis is a genetic disorder where an excessive amount of iron is absorbed from the diet. This excess is then deposited in various organs, mainly the liver, but also the pancreas, heart and the joints.

Normally the liver stores iron for the essential purpose of providing new red blood cells with iron vital for health. When excess quantities of iron are stored in the liver it becomes enlarged and deposits of iron in the pancreas, heart, and joints cause serious damage to the tissue of these organs.

What are the symptoms? Iron builds up slowly so the symptoms may not appear until the age of 30 to 40 years. These symptoms include chronic fatigue; impotence, arthritis, diabetes, liver disorders, cardiomyopathy and skin pigmentation. Most of these symptoms can be found in other disorders but when arthritis affects the first two fingers, it is highly suggestive of haemochromatosis.