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CN Tower, Niagara falls light up to highlight hereditary blood vessel disease

Toronto, June 29, 2012

By Leslie Shepherd

The CN Tower and Niagara Falls will be illuminated in blue and red tonight and Saturday night respectively to draw awareness to Hereditary Hemorrhagic Telangiectasia (HHT), a blood vessel disorder treated at St. Michael's Hospital.

HHT is a dominant genetic disorder that causes abnormal blood vessels to develop in various parts of the body. When these blood vessels are large they are called arteriovenous malformations or AVMs and can cause life-threatening hemorrhages or strokes. Smaller ones (telangiectasia) cause chronic bleeding from the nose, stomach and bowels.

Canada's first and largest HHT centre is the Toronto HHT Centre based at St. Michael's Hospital. Medical director Dr. Marie Faughnan said the centre follows about 1,500 patients. The centre's multidisciplinary team offers screening for the disease, preventative treatment for lung and brain AVMs, and treatment and management of bleeding.

Dr. Faughnan said about one in 5,000 Canadians have HHT, also known as Osler-Weber-Rendu Syndrome, although the disease is both under-recognized and under-diagnosed. She said up to 90 per cent of people with HHT have not been diagnosed and it takes on average 14 years from the time a patient first reports symptoms to a physician until a diagnosis is made. This delayed diagnosis is a big problem as these people are at risk of stroke and life-threatening bleeding until they get the care they need.

June is HHT awareness month. To promote HHT awareness, the CN Tower will be illuminated in blue and red on tonight and both the Canadian and U.S. sides of Niagara Falls will be illuminated on Saturday night.