What is Thalassemia?
Thalassemia is a blood related disorder which is characterised by abnormal formation of haemoglobin. This abnormal haemoglobin results in improper transportation of oxygen in the body. People suffering from thalassemia have fewer red blood cells circulating in their blood and suffer from mild to severe anaemia. In 2013 around 25,000 deaths were attributable to thalassemia worldwide. Around 300,000 infants worldwide are born with Thalassemia every year, In India alone 7,000 to 10,000 Children’s every year suffer from Thalassemia.
What are the different types of thalassemia?
A person who has thalassemia trait but does not show any symptoms or have only mild anaemia then he is said to have Thalassemia minor, while a person with thalassemia major may have severe symptoms and may need regular blood transfusions. People having thalassemia minor can still inherit it to next generation, that’s why they are also called as ‘Carriers’
Diagnosis of Thalassemia?
People Thalassemia major usually find out about their condition in childhood, since they have symptoms of severe anaemia early in life. People with Thalassemia minor may only find out about their condition on a routine blood test or a test done for another reason.
Because thalassemiais inherited, the condition sometimes runs in families. Some people find out about their thalassemia because they have relatives with a similar condition.People who have family members from certain parts of the world have a higher risk for having thalassemia. If you have anaemia and you also have family members from these areas, your doctor might test your blood further to find out if you have thalassemia.
Prevention of Thalassemia?
Because thalassemia is passed from parents to children, it is very hard to prevent. However, if you or your partner have family members from places in the world where thalassemia is common, you should speak to a Genetic Counsellor/Doctor to determine the risk of passing thalassemia to your children.
Some MYTHS & FACTS about Thalassemia:
Myth: Thalassemia carriers are sick and anaemic.
Fact: Thalassemia carriers are not always sick; some may be mildly anaemic while around one third Thalassemiacarriers have haemoglobin levels above 13gm/dl which is quite normal.
Myth: Thalassemia carrier couples will always have Thalassemia Major Children.
Fact: When both the partners are Thalassemia carriers there is 25% chance of having a Thalassemia Major Child, 50%chances of Thalassemia carrier/Minor and 25 percent chance of having a completely normal child.
Myth: Thalassemia is not preventable.
Fact: Thalassemia can be easily prevented by pre-marital/pre-conceptual or early pregnancy screening followed by marriage counselling and antenatal diagnosis if required.
Myth: Thalassemia patients cannot lead a normal life.
Fact: Thalassemia Majors can live normal life if they are given adequate transfusion and iron chelation therapy. General public can play a major role in helping the Thalassaemics to live a normal life by voluntary blood donation.
Myth: Thalassemia cannot be cured.
Fact: Thalassemia can be cured by bone marrow transplantation but it requires HLA matched siblings. If you have thalassemia you should discuss with your physician about Bone Marrow Transplant.