HAEMOCHROMATOSIS

Definition:  Haemochromatosis is an inherited disorder that causes the body to absorb and store too much iron. This extra iron builds up in organs (especially the liver, heart, and pancreas) and damages them. The chronic iron overload results in excessive free radical generation, especially in the liver as it is the primary iron storage organ, typically resulting in hepatocellular carcinoma in severe untreated cases.

Haemochromatosis is mainly associated with a defect in a gene called HFE, which helps regulate the amount of iron absorbed from food. The genetic defect of haemochromatosis is present at birth, but symptoms rarely appear be fore adulthood. A person who inherits the defective gene from both parents is highly likely to develop haemochromatosis, while a person who inherits the defective gene from only one parent is a carrier for the disease and usually only experience slight increases in iron absorption. Occasionally Haemochromatosis may be due, not to genetics, but to liver damage from excess alcohol, poisoning and toxins (eg., pesticides) or viral infection.

Aetiology / Risk Factors:
Major causative factors and risk factors that can contribute to the incidence of  Haemochromatosis Include the following:
* High simple sugar diet
* High                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       * fat                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             *Diet                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            * Obesity
* Smoking
* Excessive alcohol consumption
* Viral infection
* Autoimmunity
* Atherosclerosis
* Age (>40 years of age)
* Lack of exercise
* Family history of iron overload disease
* Most often affects Caucasians of Northern European descent
Although both men and women can inherit the gene defect, men are about five times more likely to be diagnosed with the effects of hereditary hemochromatosis than women. Men also tend to develop problems from the excess iron at a younger age.

Common signs and symptoms of haemochromatosis include:
* fatigue
* weakness
* abdominal pain
* pain in the joints
* slightly elevated liver enzymes
* bronze or greyish discoloration of the skin
* Impotence and/or loss of sex drive
* amenorrhea and/or early menopause
* swelling of the ankles or abdomen
* enlargement of the liver or spleen
* heart problems EG., – tachycardia, bradycardia, ectopic heart beats

If the disease is not detected early and treated, iron may accumulate in body tissues and may eventually lead to serious problems such as:
* arthritis
* liver disease, including an enlarged liver, cirrhosis, cancer, and liver failure
* damage to the pancreas, possibly causing diabetes
* heart abnormalities, such as irregular heart rhythms or congestive heart failure
* thyroid deficiency
* damage to the adrenal gland