Tuesday, July 1, 2008
July is Hemochromatosis Awareness Month
Hemochromatosis (HHC) is an inherited condition of abnormal iron metabolism; it is not a blood disease. Individuals with hemochromatosis absorb too much iron from the diet. Iron cannot be excreted therefore the metal can reach toxic levels in tissues of major organs such as the liver, heart, pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, and synovium (joints). These overburdened organs cease to function properly and eventually become diseased. Therefore, undiagnosed and untreated HHC increases the risk for diseases and conditions such as diabetes mellitus, irregular heart beat or heart attack, arthritis (osteoarthritis, osteoporosis), cirrhosis of the liver or liver cancer, depression, impotence, infertility, hypothyroidism, hypogonadism, and some cancers. Mismanaged iron in the brain is seen in those patients with neurodegenerative diseases: Alzheimer's, early onset Parkinson's, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and Huntington's disease.
People At Risk:
Northern Western European descent
Northern Western European males
Females who no longer menstruate.
Blood relatives of people diagnosed with Hemochromatosis
People who have a family history of a premature death by heart attack
People who have a family history of liver disease
People who have a family history of diabetes mellitus (type II)
Bronze colored skin
Arthritis especially in the first two knuckles of the hands (iron fist)
Signs and Symptoms:
Symptoms are non-specific. Chronic fatigue and joint pain are among the first and most common symptoms reported by patients with hemochromatosis.
Later symptoms and findings can include:
Irregular Heart Rhythm
Loss of Period Loss of Interest In Sex
Skin Color Changes
Hemochromatosis is Often Misdiagnosed:
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with HHC are misdiagnosed 67% of the time and usually see an average of three doctors before obtaining a successful diagnosis. This remains a critical health concern, because hemochromatosis is common and early detection with treatment can save lives and improve quality of life. Also, if a person with hemochromatosis is diagnosed prior to serum ferritin greater than 1,000ng/mL, the chance of cirrhosis is less than 1%! Genetic testing also called molecular analysis or DNA analysis, is available through any health care provider or can be ordered online from companies such as DNA Direct. Before getting genetically tested it is important to be fully informed of the potential for discrimination such as employment or insurance denial or cancellation. Genetic testing used in the right way can be helpful and even prevent unnecessary suffering or death.
Hemochromatosis Awareness Month
Iron Disorders Institute
2722 Wade Hampton Boulevard, Suite A
Greenville, SC 29615
Contact: Patient Information Services