Learn about mitochondrial disease

Dear editor,

Sept. 18 to 24 is Global Mitochondrial Disease Awareness Week. Because I have mitochondrial disease, I ask you to help me to spread the word that mitochondrial disease can happen at any time to anyone.

Most people have never heard of mitochondrial disease. Many physicians remember studying about mitochondria in medical school, but think they have never had a patient with mitochondrial disease.

What are mitochondria? In every cell, except red blood cells, there are hundreds of mitochondria: ultra microscopic organisms with their own DNA, which make energy from the oxygen you breathe and the food you ingest into glycogen.

Nothing moves without energy! Your heart doesn’t beat, your brain doesn’t think and react, your muscles don’t contract and expand, your gastro-intestinal system doesn’t process your waste efficiently and your eyes and ears need energy too. Every body system requires energy. If the mitochondria have difficulty functioning or getting the necessary raw materials to manufacture energy, body systems slow down or even fail.

When three body systems are demonstrating functional problems, physicians should take steps to investigate for mitochondrial disease.

Mitochondrial disease is a group of disorders caused by dysfunctional mitochondria –  mitochondria that don’t work properly. There are so many types of mitochondrial disease it would be impossible to name them all, and many have yet to be discovered. When the mitochondria  fail this can lead to organ and body system failure and even death.

In Canada, it is estimated more than 5.5 million adults suffer from diseases in which mitochondrial dysfunction is involved: diabetes, kidney disease, Alzheimer’s, liver disease, Parkinson’s, stroke, autism, cancer, heart disease, blindness, migraine, infertility, ALS, deafness, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and more.

The MitoCanada Foundation is the voice of Canadians living with mitochondrial disease.

Visit www.mitocanada.org or http://gmdaw.org/ to learn more.

Jean Shepherd

Courtenay