Thalassemia is a blood disorder
that is inherited. This means it is passed down from one or both parents through their
genes. When you have thalassemia, your body makes less hemoglobin than normal.
Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein in red blood cells. It carries oxygen to all parts of
There are 2 main types of
thalassemia: alpha and beta. Different genes are affected for each type.
Thalassemia can cause mild or
severe anemia. Anemia occurs when your body does not have enough red blood cells or
hemoglobin. The severity and type of anemia depends on how many genes are affected.
Alpha thalassemia occurs when one
or more of the 4 alpha-globin genes that make up part of the hemoglobin molecule are
missing or damaged.
There are 4 types of alpha thalassemia:
This is a genetic disease inherited from one or both parents. The only risk factor is having a family history of the disease.
Different people will have different symptoms, based on which type of alpha thalassemia is inherited. Common symptoms for each type may include:
Alpha thalassemia is most often
found in these parts of the world:
The following blood tests are done
to check for the condition and to tell if you are a carrier, and can pass the disorder
on to your children:
All of these tests can be done using a single blood sample. In a pregnant woman, the baby is diagnosed using CVS (chorionic villus sampling) or amniocentesis. A DNA test is needed to make a diagnosis of alpha thalassemia.
Treatment will depend on your symptoms, age, and general health. It
will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment may include:
People with alpha thalassemia may have no symptoms. Or they may have many symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, you may still want to see a specialist. He or she can help you understand the risks of passing the disease to your children.
If you have symptoms, work with your healthcare provider. He or she can help you find the best treatment to reduce anemia symptoms.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200