What causes thalassemia?
A defect in one or more
genes causes thalassemia.
If you, either parent, or any of your siblings have thalassemia or carry a gene for thalassemia and you're thinking about
having a child, you may want to talk to a genetic counselor before you get pregnant. A genetic counselor can tell you
how likely it is that your child will have the disease and how severe it might
What are the symptoms?
Mild thalassemia usually
doesn't cause any symptoms.
Moderate or severe
disease may cause symptoms of anemia. For example, you may feel weak, tire out more easily, and feel short of breath. Other symptoms also can occur depending on how severe your disease is and what problems it causes.
Children with severe thalassemia may grow slowly (failure to thrive), have skull bones that are not shaped normally, and have problems with feeding, frequent fevers, and diarrhea.
How is thalassemia diagnosed?
Your doctor will do an exam and ask about your health history. Tests
you may need include:
complete blood count (CBC).
gene test to see if you have the genes that cause thalassemia.
- An iron level test.
- A blood test that
measures the amounts of different types of hemoglobin, to help find out which
type of thalassemia you have.
If you learn that you have thalassemia, your family members should to talk to their doctors about testing.
How is it treated?
Treatment depends on how severe your condition is.
Most large medical centers have treatment centers for blood disorders. They are an excellent resource to help you and your family get the best care.
- Mild thalassemia, the most common form, does
not need treatment.
- Moderate thalassemia may be treated with
blood transfusions and folic acid supplements. Folic acid is a vitamin that your body needs to produce red blood cells.
- Severe thalassemia may
be treated with:
- Blood transfusions.
If you have repeated blood transfusions, it's possible
for your body to get too much iron. This can
damage your heart and other organs. Make sure to avoid vitamins that contain iron, and don't take extra vitamin C, which can increase how much iron you absorb from food. If you have too much
iron, your doctor may give you
chelation therapy. This is a medicine that helps remove iron from your body.