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New specialist outpatient clinic offers help for people suffering from haemochromatosis

A new specialist outpatient clinic at the University Hospital of Ulm is treating haemochromatosis sufferers and is investigating the causes of this disease. Haemochromatosis, which as the effect of poisoning the body, is one of the most frequent hereditary diseases.

Haemochromatosis sufferers complain of disorders that have a myriad of possible causes and which are often initially attributed to other diseases: fatigue, abdominal pain, joint disorders or cardiac arrhythmias. Elevated levels of iron in the liver might be a first sign of the disease as the liver is the organ that is most affected by the accumulation of iron. “A genetic mutation can predispose people to accumulate iron,” said Dr. Hasan Kulaksiz, head of the Haemochromatosis Outpatient Clinic at Ulm University Hospital.

Life-threatening disorders

Healthy liver seen using miniature laparoskopy,
Healthy liver seen using miniature laparoskopy.
Cirrhotic liver. (Photos: University Hospital Ulm)
Cirrhotic liver. (Photos: University Hospital Ulm)
Iron accumulates in many organs, in particular in the liver, but also in the pancreas, pituitary gland, heart or in joints. The disease can eventually lead to liver cirrhosis or liver cancer; some patients develop diabetes or suffer from cardiac disease. The disease can manifest itself with symptoms that are often initially attributed to other diseases, making it difficult to diagnose the often life-threatening disorder.

Relatively unknown disease

Head of the specialist outpatient clinic: Dr. Hasan Kulaksiz. (Photo: Petra Schultze, University Hospital of Ulm)
“Although many people carry this genetic mutation, haemochromatosis is not a well known disease,” explains Kulaksiz. The disease can be diagnosed by testing for elevated levels of proteins that are involved in iron metabolism, a genetic test or a liver biopsy. If treated early, then these patients can lead a normal life. If, however, haemochromatosis has already led to secondary diseases, the success of the treatment clearly depends on the stage of disease,” said Kulaksiz, emphasizing the importance of early diagnosis of this disease.

The doctors of the Haemachromatosis Outpatient Clinic in Ulm are hoping to find out why a mutated gene leads to disorders in iron metabolism. “For example, we are investigating the role of the hormone hepcidin which inhibits the absorption of iron in the small intestine,” said Kulaksiz.

The Haemochromatosis Outpatient Clinic is the only specialist outpatient clinic in the eastern Württemberg area dealing exclusively with the research into, and treatment of, this disease.
Source: University Hospital Ulm, 29.01.08 (P) (wp - 07.02.08)
Further information:
Haemochromatosis Outpatient Clinic
University Hospital of Ulm
Robert-Koch-Str. 8
89081 Ulm
Patient contact:
Tel.: +49 (+)731 – 500 44032 (Mo - Fr 8.00 - 12.00)
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/news/new-specialist-outpatient-clinic-offers-help-for-people-suffering-from-haemochromatosis