New Delhi: Every year, May 8 is observed as World Thalassaemia Day across the globe. The main goal of the observation of the day is to raise awareness about the disease and other fatal diseases, making the world a better place to live on.
What is thalassemia?
Thalassemia is a group of inherited blood disorders in which abnormal hemoglobin is formed in the body. There are three main forms of thalassemia - alpha thalassemia, beta thalassemia, and thalassemia minor.
People suffering from thalassemia have less hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells, which lead to anemia.
Your chances of inheriting a serious form of the disease is high if both of your parents are carriers of thalassemia. It is the most common genetic disorder that gets transferred to children from parents through genes.
What is the status of thalassemia in India?
India, considered to be the capital of thalassaemia, sees some 10,000 children born with the condition every year. However, the disease is still overlooked when we talk about the burden of the disease in the country. Of these, 50 percent die before the age of 20 due to poverty and lack of treatment. Reportedly, about four million Indians are thalassemia carriers and over 1, 00,000 patients.
Furthermore, a study conducted by Metropolis Healthcare - a global chain of pathology labs and diagnostic centres - was found that one in every two women in India is anemic.
Unfortunately, there is no prevention and control programme at the national level.
Symptoms of thalassemia
Signs and symptoms of thalassemia depend on the type and can vary from none to severe. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Bone deformities, especially in the face
- Pale appearance or yellow skin
- Slowth growth rates
- Increased risk of infection
- Iron overload
- Heart problems
Signs of thalassemia also tend to develop later in childhood or adolesence.
The treatment for thalassemia depends on the type and severity of the disorder involved. For instance, treatment for those with more severe form of the disease includes –
- Blood transfusions
- Bone marrow transplant
- Medications and supplements - iron chelation (removal of excess iron from the body with special drugs)
- Possible surgery to remove the spleen or gallbladder
Thalassemia is most common in African, Mediterranean and Asian countries. Both males and females have similar rates of the disorder.