“...When you walked into the room I knew you for what you are, the hair rose on the back of my neck as I picked up my shield and held it over my heart.
Wood, bronze and leather protect
me from the cold, cold iron...”
In fairy tales and modern fiction
iron has always been described as dangerous to fairies. Where does
this tradition come from? Possibly from the "Irish Disease". Also know
as "The Celtic Curse, hemochromatosis
deposits iron in the heart, joints, pancreas, liver,
and pituitary gland causing the body to “rust” from the inside
If you are of Scots,
Irish or British descent you are more likely to carry the gene for
is thought that the mutation originally occurred in the area of
Ireland around 40,000 years ago to enable an individual to over
absorb iron “to compensate for an iron poor diet.” With our
modern iron rich diet we no longer need this trait but it is still
active in an unlucky group.
untreated hemochromatosis can lead to early menopause, infertility,
diabetes, heart failure, cirrhosis, primary liver cancer and death.
treatment, not a cure, for this disease also goes back to primitive times
and methods - Blood Letting, also known as phlebotomy. Initially up
to a pint of blood, once or twice a week is removed. This encourages
the formation of new red blood cells which draw excess iron from the
body. After a period of time, sometimes years, this will decrease the
amount of iron stored in the tissues and the treatment can be
administered 3 or 4 times a year.
is the most common genetic disease in the United States and though
easily treated often goes undiagnosed. An estimated 33.5 million
people are effected with 32 million as “silent carriers” . 1.5
million may have a double mutation if both their parents carry the
gene putting them at very high risk.
spite of inexpensive tests and a relatively easy treatment many
people go undiagnosed. At one time doctors thought of hemochromatosis
as a disease of old, white men but it is now recognized that people
younger than 30 years of age and of many different genetic
backgrounds can be vulnerable. Due to their training, you may have to
educate you doctor. They may be reluctant to administer the needed
tests and not take your requests seriously. If so, there is a mail
order test for $125 that will allow you to do an initial screening at
for hemochromatosis can be broad and confusing from elevated liver
enzymes, cirrhosis, tender swollen joints, heart problems, changes in
skin pigmentation (turning bronze without going to the beach),
depression, increase in blood glucose levels, a swollen stomach or a
heavy feeling (mostly on the right side of the belly), redness in the
palms of the hands, an enlarged spleen, chronic fatigue and anemia.
your doctor to agree to testing if you are anemic can be very
difficult. They see low iron levels in the blood without exploring
the possibility that there is a excess of iron stored in the tissue
or organs. Adding an iron supplement will not solve the problem but
can lead to more damage.
you are of Irish decent it may be even more difficult because people
remember that “the Irish have a drinking problem” and liver
damage is one of the symptoms of hemochromatosis.
combat this ancient disease is an easy process. To get diagnosis and
treatment is difficult. Do not give up and fall victim to the “Curse
of the Celts”.
have an acquaintance of Irish descent who has been under treatment
for hemochromatosis for many years. He is able to lead a normal,
refer to http://www.americanhs.org/irish%20in%20the%20blood.htm
for more information on the home testing kit.