A Wigan businesswoman has spoken of living with a little-known genetic condition which causes her body to produce too much iron.
Zara Woods, from Standish, broke her silence to raise awareness during World Haemochromatosis Week.
The 40-year-old was diagnosed with the condition after doctors realised why she had suffered symptoms including fatigue, joint pain and liver issues for several years.
She is now calling for doctors to learn more about haemochromatosis, which could affect one in every 200 people, as she says having a diagnosis and understanding how to control her iron levels is extremely empowering.
Zara, who now runs wellness company Make Life Amazing, said: “I was a director in banking, travelling all over the world so assumed my health issues were lifestyle-related, but then I went part time and the fatigue in particular got worse, not better.
“I wouldn’t be able to move my joints, particularly my ankles, and I was waking up in the night with a lot of pain.
“I went to the doctors because I needed to get to the bottom of it and some tests revealed my iron level was in the high 80s when it should be about 45.
“The leading haemochromatosis charity says it’s the most common genetic condition you’ve never heard of. That was certainly the case for me. There also need to be better checks for it but doctors only seem to test for it if you’ve got really chronic symptoms.
“I’d like to see people who’ve got the symptoms speak to their doctors earlier.
“I went to a conference in London and I would say about 95 per cent of the people there were over 60.
“For me the diagnosis has been really helpful. I’ve got more awareness and my prognosis is really good. I can have a normal life expectancy without getting the most serious conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes or heart and liver issues. Knowing what to do has really empowered me.
“People with the symptoms I had can ask for a simple blood test to identify if their iron level is too high.”
Find out more about the condition at http:// haemochromatosis.org.uk