The words Hereditary Haemochromatosis and 'iron overload' first entered my vocabulary in late 2022.

But what is it?

This is the UK’s most common genetic condition affecting over 380,000 people. However the level of public awareness is surprisingly low.

Put simply, this is a condition where iron levels gradually build up in the body over periods of time typically spanning many years or decades.

Left undetected it can become toxic and cause fatal damage to the liver, pancreas and heart.

Pure serendipity played a role in my diagnosis.

I had no discernible symptoms.

I’d received an annual medical for many years at work. After a gap following the pandemic something was nagging me to get checked out again. So I repeated the same medical which this time (unbeknown to me) included an additional iron test. That test discovered my then abnormal iron levels.

Bewilderment followed.

My family, friends and I had never heard of having too much iron.

How is that even possible?

My GP swiftly referred me for further testing which diagnosed Hereditary Haemochromatosis.

Crucially my tests confirmed no organ damage. Over a 3 month period my iron levels were successfully reduced by a form of weekly blood donation called ‘venesection’. Quite literally a draining and tiring experience, yet a simple, highly effective and life saving treatment.

I have been extremely lucky.

From here on I become a life-long blood donor each year to maintain this level. A relatively small price to pay in the grand scheme of things.

So my goal is simple: to increase awareness of iron overload.

The NHS kindly introduced me to the charity Haemochromatosis UK. I was surprised to learn that my journey is atypical. I have since met other people with the condition. Many experienced difficulty obtaining a diagnosis, had been misdiagnosed or diagnosed late with more complex prognoses. This in turn is often accompanied by high levels of Anxiety.

If you are still reading then my goal has been achieved.

I'll be running the London Vitality 10K in September 2023 to fundraise for Haemochromatosis UK.

If you have the means to donate – rest assured - this will greatly support their flagship work in education, research and helping people live with iron overload.

Mark V. Mark Venn