How Are Thalassemias Treated?

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel

What is Thalassemia?

It is an inherited blood disorder, which prevents your body from making normal, healthy hemoglobin – a protein molecule that plays a very important role in making healthy, oxygen-bearing red blood cells. The disease cannot spread from one individual to another by personal contact. It is, as mentioned above, inherited, meaning one of your parents must carry the disease.

Thalassemia is mostly present in families of South Asian, Chinese, Middle Eastern, African origin. In order to know whether you have the thalassemia trait or not, you need to have a special blood test – the hemoglobin electrophoresis.

How Are Thalassemias Treated?

Treatments for thalassemia are determined by which type of the disorder you have and how severe it is. Your doctor will provide you with a course of treatment that is considered most suitable for your case. Those who are carriers or who have alpha or beta thalassemia trait manifest with mild or no symptoms. There is every likelihood that you will need little or no treatment.

Moderate and severe types of thalassemia require standard treatments including blood transfusions, iron chelation therapy, and folic acid supplements.

Blood Transfusions

Blood transfusions are the major treatment available for patients with moderate or severe types of thalassemia. This treatment method supplies healthy red blood cells with standard hemoglobin, and allows you to lead a comparatively normal life. During the course of this treatment, doctors insert a needle through an intravenous line into one of your blood vessels. Healthy blood can access to your body through this line. One to four hours is the usual time to have this procedure done.

Since red blood cells can survive only for around four months, repeated transfusions are required to maintain a healthy supply of red blood cells.

Blood transfusions may be needed occasionally should you have beta thalassemia intermedia or hemoglobin H disease. You may, for instance, require transfusions if the anemia gets severe enough to cause symptoms, such as fatigue.

Moreover, if you have beta thalassemia major, you may have high chances of needing regular blood transfusions, usually every 2-4 weeks, depending on the number of infused cells consumed.

The pros of this treatment are that it’s indeed very important for people with thalassemia; nevertheless, the cons are the expensive cost and the risk of spreading viruses and infections. However, nowadays the risk is very low.

Iron Chelation Therapy

Hemoglobin in your red blood cells is a protein with high iron content. Regular blood transfusions can therefore result in the excess iron in your blood. Despite the importance of iron for the body, iron overload can bring damage to your heart, liver and other organs of the body, and can even lead to death. It is therefore of vital importance that excessive iron should be eliminated, or chelated. To do this, you need iron chelation therapy.

Deferoxamine and Deferasirox are two medicines needed for iron chelation therapy.

Folic Acid Supplements

Folic acid is a vitamin B that aids your body in creating healthy red blood cells. Folic acid supplements can be recommended to use in combination with blood transfusions and/or iron chelation therapy.

Another treatment

Stem cell transplant. This treatment, also known as bone marrow transplant, is usually required for children who are born with severe thalassemia. Employing this treatment can mean that you may not need lifelong blood transfusions and medicines that are used to have the excess iron under control.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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Review Date: December 4, 2019 | Last Modified: December 4, 2019

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