World Thalassemia Day: How can it be prevented?

By Salome Phelamei | Last Updated: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 19:22

Zee Media Bureau/Salome Phelamei

Do you know what Thalassemia is? It is a genetic blood disorder caused by the weakening and destruction of red blood cells, which leads to anemia.

Anemia is a condition in which your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells.

Thalassemia is caused by variant or missing genes that affect how the body makes haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen.

Thalassemia is the most common genetic disorder passed on to children. While children could inherit if one or both parents is carrying the disease gene, the risk increases if both parents have this disease.

To raise awareness of this disease, the World Health Organisation (WHO) set 8th of May, every year, as the World Thalassemia Day.

Mild thalassemia may not require treatment, but people with a more severe form of thalassemia need medical treatment such as regular blood transfusions, which is the first effective measure in prolonging life.

Symptoms of thalassemia include:

Weakness

Fatigue

Slow growth

Pale appearance

Abnormal swelling

Abnormal bone structure, especially in the face and skull

Heart problems

Iron overload

While some babies show signs of thalassemia at birth, others may develop symptoms during the first two years of life.

Since the disease is hereditary, you can't prevent it through medicines, and no cure has been found yet. However, you can take steps that will help reduce the chances of passing on the disease. Blood tests and family genetic studies will show if you are a carrier. Prenatal tests are necessary as that can detect the disease before birth.

People with thalassemia should consider talking with their doctor and genetic counselor as they can help determine their risks of passing on the disorder to their children. 



First Published: Thursday, May 8, 2014 - 19:19

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