Thalassemia is a hereditary blood disorder characterised by the production of abnormal haemoglobin, leading to the destruction or breakdown of red blood cells. This condition is inherited and can affect both males and females.

Classification of Thalassemia

Thalassemia is divided into two main categories based on severity:

  1. Thalassemia Major: The symptoms range from mild to severe, depending on the type and severity of the thalassemia.
  2. Thalassemia Minor or Carrier: Individuals in this group are generally as healthy as those without the condition, but they carry the thalassemia trait, which can be passed on to their offspring.

Guidance for Thalassemia Carriers

  • Consult a haematologist to understand more about thalassemia.
  • If you're planning a family, it's crucial for your partner to undergo a health check to assess the risk of your children inheriting thalassemia.

Treatment Approaches

The treatment varies based on the severity of thalassemia and includes:

  • Maintaining overall good health.
  • Limiting the intake of iron-rich foods such as liver, spinach, and blood.
  • Stopping iron supplements and vitamins unless prescribed.
  • Consuming turmeric and drinking tea to reduce iron absorption.
  • Regular dental check-ups every six months.
  • Avoiding strenuous activities and excessive alcohol or drug use.
  • Not taking vitamin C supplements without a prescription.
  • Staying in well-ventilated areas reduces infection risk.
  • Seeking immediate medical help if you experience symptoms like severe pain under the right ribs, fever, or jaundice.

Specialised Treatments

  • Transfusion: Not necessary for mild anaemia. For moderate cases, transfusions may be advised based on individual symptoms. In severe cases, regular transfusions may be necessary to prevent complications like bone deformities and an enlarged spleen. However, transfusions carry risks like infections and iron overload.
  • Iron-chelating Agents: Used to remove excess iron from the body, administered either by injection or orally.
  • Spleen Removal: Recommended for patients with severe anaemia and frequent transfusion needs. Vaccinations against pneumococcus and Haemophilus are advised before splenectomy.
  • Bone Marrow Transplant: The only curative treatment, especially effective in younger patients. Stem cells for transplantation can also be sourced from cord blood, but the cost is significant.