What is beta thalassemia?
Thalassemia is a genetic disorder that affects red blood cells. Normally, red blood cells carry oxygen to all the organs in the body. When you have thalassemia, you have fewer red blood cells in your body than normal. This decrease in blood cells can cause anemia, leaving you fatigued.
It is caused by an abnormal gene. If people get their abnormal gene from both their mother and father, it’s called “thalassemia major”. If people get this abnormal gene from only one parent, it’s called “thalassemia trait”. Thalassemia trait doesn’t usually cause any of the symptoms of thalassemia major. Its symptoms usually start after a baby is a few months old.
How common is beta thalassemia?
This health condition is extremely common in South-East Asia. It is a life-long condition that people are born with. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of beta thalassemia?
That clinical signs and symptoms often are:
- Death of developing red cell within the bone marrow
- Increased destruction of circulating red cells
Because of one of these abnormalities, or both, physical symptoms include:
- Pale skin
- Acting cranky or upset
- Not growing as much as expected
- Swelling of the belly
- The skin or white part of the eyes turning yellow
- The bones of the face or skull being wider than normal
Patients with severe beta thalassemia are experience severe features very early, within the first year of their life.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have a child with thalassemia, it’s possible that your future children will have thalassemia. Please consult with your doctor to find out how likely it is that your future children will have the disease. Everyone’s body acts differently, if you do get pregnant, you can choose to test your unborn baby for screening such a condition. This can be done in different ways.
What causes beta thalassemia?
Beta thalassemia results from mutations or completed loss of function of beta globin gene. This is caused by mutations in the DNA of cells that make hemoglobin — the substance in your red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body. The mutations associated with thalassemia are passed from parents to children.
What increases my risk for beta thalassemia?
There are many risk factors for beta thalassemia , such as:
- You are related to the area that the specific mutation
- Your parent family
- Beta thalassemia was presented/ diagnosed in the mom’s previous pregnancy.
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is beta thalassemia diagnosed?
As mentioned above, beta thalassemia can be diagnosed with a test of you baby’s blood or even during the pregnancy.
How is beta thalassemia treated?
People with thalassemia and severe anemia are treated with blood transfusions. A blood transfusion is when a person get blood that was given (donated) by another person.
Although blood transfusion help treats thalassemia, they can also cause problems. That’s because the donated blood has iron in it. When people get a lot of blood transfusions, their body gets too much iron. Too much iron can damage the heart and liver.
People getting a blood transfusion for their thalassemia need treatment to get rid of the extra iron that builds up in their bodies. This treatment is called “iron chelation”, the doctor can use different medicines for iron chelation.
Thalassemia can sometimes be cured with a procedure called “bone marrow transplant”. This procedure involves replacing the cells in the bone marrow with healthy cells. These healthy cells come from another person (donor). But not everyone with thalassemia can have this kind of treatment. That’s because it can be done only if a person and his or her donor meet certain conditions.
Some people with Thalassemia will need surgery to reduce the spleen. That’s because the spleen removes red blood cells from the blood, which can make anemia worse.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage beta thalassemia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with beta thalassemia:
- See their doctor to regulate the follow-ups, and follow his or her instruction about tests or treatments.
- Avoid taking vitamin with iron in them;
- Take a vitamin called “folic acid/ folate”, if the doctor or nurse recommends it.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Thein SL. Genetic insights into the clinical diversity of beta thalassaemia. Br J Haematol 2004. Accessed 19 Feb, 2017.
Rachmilewitz EA, Giardina PJ. How I treat thalassemia. Blood. 2011 Essential Hematology Download version. Book's bibliography. Accessed 19 Feb, 2017.
Hematology in Clinical Practice 5th Ed (LANGE). Download version Chap.6 Page 74-80. Accessed 19 Feb, 2017.
Thalassemia | The Genetic book | Ministry of Health Hanoi 2008. Download version Page 78-79. Accessed 19 Feb, 2017.
Review Date: February 19, 2017 | Last Modified: September 13, 2019