Blood disorder a sleeping threat

THERE are 7000 patients on the BITS Medical Centre database.

Of these, 38 suffer from haemochromatosis, and that's not including the disease "carriers".

"It is very, very common," said Dr Gaston Boulanger.

"I believe there would be many people in this area who would be suffering from, or carrying, this disease."

Dr Boulanger said haemochromatosis is a little-known disease but could have big implications on your health if it goes untreated.

"Basically, a gene isn't working (in the body) and so you get an iron overload in the system," he said. "Where there is too much iron concentration, it becomes toxic."

Fortunately Dr Boulanger said it was relatively easy to treat.

"You need to get the iron out, and you do that by taking blood," he said.

And what better way to get rid of some blood than to donate it?

"Head to the blood bank," Dr Boulanger advised. "People who have very high iron levels will feel better in a few days, if not immediately."

It's when the condition goes untreated that things start to get scary.

"The skin will turn a brownish or copperish colour, your liver is going to get sick, and, if you don't treat it, ultimately you can die," he said.

Haemochromatosis is a genetic disease and Dr Boulanger recommended those suffering from symptoms, or who have family members who suffer from it, should see a doctor and get their genes checked.

He said men were more likely to notice problems in their 30s, while women will mostly likely begin suffering after they go through menopause.

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