Thalassemia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment


What is Thalassemia?

Thalassemia is a blood disorder that is inherited and is characterized by low levels of haemoglobin and few numbers of red blood cells than the normal count. Due to thalassemia, the red blood cells are unhealthy and get destroyed at an excessive rate that leads to anaemia. You cannot get thalassemia during any time of your life like cold and flu. It is a congenital blood disorder and at least one of your parents must have it. A life-long treatment is a key to a better quality of life. Blood transfusions on a regular basis are essential for the treatment of thalassemia.

Symptoms of Thalassemia

A person can suffer from moderate to severe thalassemia and the symptoms of the condition vary accordingly. However, some common symptoms of thalassemia include:

  • Bone deformities in the face
  • Dark urine
  • Pale skin and jaundice
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Chest pain
  • Cold feet and hands
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Cramps in leg
  • Poor feeding habits
  • Delayed growth and development
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Prone to infections

Although some babies show signs of thalassemia at birth, others might first exhibit it only during or after the first two years of birth.

Causes of thalassemia

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder and it happens due to an abnormality or mutation in one of the genes responsible for haemoglobin production.

If one of your parents has thalassemia, you might be a carrier of the disease in the form of thalassemia minor. In this condition, you might probably not have any symptoms, although in some cases patients do develop minor symptoms.

But if both of your parents have thalassemia, you will suffer from a  more severe form of thalassemia and your doctor will be able to administer the proper treatment and therapy options.

Treatment of thalassemia

What sort of treatment and therapy will be administered depends on the severity and type of thalassemia

1. Blood transfusions

A yearly 8 to 12 blood transfusions are a must for those with severe cases of thalassemia. This can help to replenish the haemoglobin level and red blood cells. The number of blood transfusions can increase in case of illness or infection.

2. Iron chelation

This is a medical procedure to remove excess iron from the bloodstream. At times due to blood transfusion, an excess iron builds up in the bloodstream. Doctors prescribe injecting a medication under the skin to get rid of the iron.

3. Bone marrow or stem cell transplant

If you get a compatible donor for a transplant it may prove an effective treatment for producing red and white blood cells, hemoglobin, and platelets.

4. Surgery

A surgery might be required to correct abnormalities of the bone.

Thalassemia can affect pregnancy too. It affects the development of the reproductive organs and fertility. Always consult your doctor beforehand if you are planning to start a family. Go for the necessary blood tests and get your iron levels monitored. 

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