Alpha thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder. This means it is passed down through the parent’s genes. It causes anemia in affected children. Anemia is a low red blood cell or low hemoglobin level. Hemoglobin is the part of red blood cells. It carries oxygen to organs, tissues, and cells. Alpha thalassemia affects the production of hemoglobin.
There are different types of thalassemia. The severity of anemia depends on the type the child has.
Alpha thalassemia is caused by defects in the genes that control hemoglobin production. There are 3 types:
Alpha thalassemia is passed from parents to children. They way it is inherited varies and is complex. If both parents have the gene defect, each of their children has a risk of having alpha thalassemia major. They are also at risk for having hemoglobin H disease, and of being a carrier.
The gene defect that causes alpha thalassemia is more common in people from these areas:
Symptoms of alpha thalassemia are from anemia. They range from mild to severe and include:
The healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Treatment depends on the type of alpha thalassemia.
Complications also depend on the type of alpha thalassemia.
Complications from the treatment of hemoglobin H disease may occur. For example,
Your child should have his or her blood checked regularly. Talk with your child's provider about how often it should be checked.
Your child should also be checked if he or she has a fever. Fevers can cause a drop in hemoglobin.
Talk with the healthcare provider about having genetic counseling.
Call your child's healthcare provider if he or she has:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
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