It is known as the Irish disease and Sandra Thomas who runs the American Hemochromatosis Society in Florida is urgently seeking to alert Irish Americans to its dangers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control the disease, hemochromatosis, is now the most common genetic disorder in the United States with an estimated 32 million silent carriers.
Thomas has been using St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and Irish gatherings everywhere as a platform for discussing what she describes as “The Celtic Curse”.
Hemochromatosis is a hereditary disease, linked particularly to Irish and those of Irish origin. It causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you consume. The excess iron becomes stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas.
It can lead to life-threatening conditions such as cancer, heart problems and liver disease.
Those with Irish heritage have a significantly greater chance of carrying the gene mutation that can contribute to the deadly disorder.
Some experts believe that hemochromatosis originated more than 40,000 years ago in Ireland when genes mutated allowing the population to over-absorb iron, to compensate for a poor iron diet.
If left untreated the disease can lead to early menopause, infertility, diabetes, heart failure and even death.
Thomas‘s mother died of liver cancer caused by iron overload. A carrier of the disease herself, she is committed to spreading awareness of the disease.
Thomas says her mother’s dying wish "was that everyone would get tested for hereditary hemochromatosis/iron overload, so they wouldn’t have to go through what she was going through."
Thomas, who is the founder and president of the American Hemochromatosis Society, encourages everyone who has Irish linage to get tested for the hereditary disorder.
The website is www.americanhs.org.