A potentially deadly blood condition has been labelled the ‘Celtic Curse’ because more people in Ireland are prone to it than people from other countries.
Haemochromatosis is a build-up of iron in the blood which if untreated can reach toxic levels that cause failure of vital organs such as the liver, heart and pancreas.
It is estimated that one in five Irish people carry the gene that causes this condition, though most will not suffer from any symptoms and remain unaffected. The gene is inherited from one or both parents.
One in 83 Irish people are affected by the gene and develop haemochromatosis. They may suffer from symptoms such as chronic fatigue, joint pains, loss of sex drive and irregular heartbeat.
Thankfully, the condition is easily treatable if diagnosed early. Sufferers are required to have a unit of blood removed from their bodies, in order to dilute the iron levels back to a normal level. The treatment is not dissimilar from giving a blood donation.
One person that has been diagnosed with haemochromatosis is Dubliner Marianne Doyle. She told the Irish Independent: “I had been travelling for work to Brazil, Russia, US and Canada and put my intense fatigue down either to pure exhaustion or a tropical disease.
“Eventually tests were done and my iron level was over 700. It should have been under 200. I now have to give blood once a month, and while I hated it first I have now got used to it. Now I’m completely back to myself so it is all worth it.
“It’s not the worst condition to have once you are diagnosed before any organ damage is done, and it is very treatable. Through tests we discovered that both my parents are carriers of the gene so do not have symptoms themselves.”
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has urged Irish people to visit their GP if they are suffering from any of the symptoms.