Doc Talk #104 – Hemochromatosis

 

 

May is hemochromatosis month and in honour of this, we dedicated this show to telling listeners more about this disorder.

Hemochromatosis is characterized by excessive iron and can affect many organs of the body, including the skin, heart, liver and pancreas.

It is a genetic condition, and up to 10% of Canadians are ‘carriers’. It requires two copies of the gene to get the disease – but it is more complicated than that – even if you have two copies of the gene, it doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily suffer from iron excess.

There is some great information on hemochromatosis from the Candian Hemochromatosis Society at the their website: toomuchiron.ca

Theories of why hemochromatosis mutations are so common abound, including the Neolithic diet, protection against malaria and the plague (‘Black Death’).

Hemochromatosis has even been postulated as a defence against the chilly and damp environment of Europe

You won’t have symptoms of hemochromatosis until you already have damage to organs (such as cirrhosis of the liver or diabetes).

If you have family members with hemochromatosis it is definitely worth getting tested.

The treatment for hemochromatosis is straightforward and simple – it involves taking blood every so often to keep the iron levels, potentially this can be done by donating blood through Canadian Blood Services.

DocTalk being DocTalk, it would be remiss of us not to mention lifestyle. Avoiding alcohol excess is important with hemochromatosis as it can worsen liver problems.