Haemochromatosis sufferer Marianne on mission to warn Irish of common 'Celtic Curse' blood condition
A life-threatening genetic illness that can lead to organ failure and death if not detected has been branded the 'Celtic Curse' because more people in Ireland are prone to it than other countries.
Haemochromatosis is a build-up of iron in the blood which then becomes toxic.
Sufferers inherit the gene from one or both parents who may be carriers but may not know it.
One in 83 Irish people are predisposed to this iron overload, and one in five Irish people carry one copy of the gene that causes it.
Now in an effort to raise awareness of the condition, Health Minister Leo Varadkar is to launch the haemochromatosis awareness campaign on Friday on behalf of the Irish Haemochromatosis Association.
They are encouraging people who are suffering from symptoms such as chronic fatigue, joint pain, diabetes, irregular heartbeat, and loss of sex drive to consult their GP.
A simple blood test to check your iron status can confirm or rule out iron overload.
The accumulated iron affects the liver, heart, pancreas, endocrine glands and joints, leading to impaired function of these organs and eventually to disease and organ failure.
The good news for people who have the genetic illness is that treatment is simple and effective.
It basically involves the regular removal of a unit of blood and is similar to blood donation.
This dilutes the blood sufficiently to prevent the stored iron reaching toxic levels.
Marianne Doyle (34), from Sallynoggin, was diagnosed two and a half years ago.
"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," she said.
"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," Marianne explained.
"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," she added.
For further information about the illness and the awareness campaign go to www.haemochrom atosis-ir.com