‘It’s so easy to overlook symptoms,’ says student (19) diagnosed with potentially fatal ‘Celtic curse’

Nursing student Jessica Byrne, 19, recently discovered she has the potentially fatal condition known as haemochromatosis, also known as the Celtic curse. This genetic disorder, more common in countries like Ireland and Scotland, affects around 20,000 people in Ireland who are undiagnosed. Symptoms of haemochromatosis can include chronic fatigue, joint pain, and diabetes, which can easily be overlooked. Ms. Byrne emphasized the importance of awareness about this condition, especially for students and young adults.

“Although common, with one in five carrying the gene and one in 83 predisposed to developing it, it still has a low profile,” Ms. Byrne stated. The Irish Haemochromatosis Association has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the disorder and the importance of early diagnosis. World Haemochromatosis Awareness Week is approaching, aiming to educate the public about the symptoms and risks associated with this condition.

Dr. John Ryan, a consultant in hepatology and gastroenterology, highlighted the importance of early detection and treatment of haemochromatosis. If left untreated, the excess iron in the body can lead to severe organ damage. Treatment options include venesection and blood donation, which can benefit both the individual with haemochromatosis and those in need of blood donations.

Former Fine Gael TD Maurice Manning, who lives with haemochromatosis, emphasized the high prevalence of this condition in Ireland and the importance of early diagnosis. The Irish community is coming together to support the awareness campaign, with city and county councils participating in the initiative to “Light Up Red” iconic public buildings during World Haemochromatosis Awareness Week. It is crucial for everyone, especially those with a family history of the condition, to be aware of the symptoms and risks associated with haemochromatosis to ensure early diagnosis and proper management.