What is thalassemia? Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen. Thalassemia is inherited in the blood, which affects the body’s ability to produce normal hemoglobin.
People with thalassemia produce a healthier hemoglobin protein, and their bone marrow produces less healthy red blood cells. Hemoglobin is important because it allows your red blood cells to carry oxygen to all parts of your body.
In India, 10,000 children with thalassemia are born each year, which is 10% of the global incidence of children with thalassemia. One in eight thalassemia carriers lives in India. In India, there are around 42 million carriers of the thalassemia characteristic.
Thalassemia is caused by changes in the DNA of cells that make hemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Thalassemia mutations are passed from parent to child.
The types of thalassemia are defined by two things: the specific part of hemoglobin that is affected (usually “alpha” or “beta”), or the severity of thalassemia, which is characterized by a characteristic, carrier, intermediate, or greater Words are written down.
Hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all the cells in the body, is made up of two different parts, called alpha and beta. When thalassemia is called “alpha” or “beta,” it refers to the part of hemoglobin that is not forming. If alpha or beta is not formed, there are not enough building blocks to produce small amounts of hemoglobin. Low alpha is called alpha thalassemia. Low beta is called beta-thalassemia.
When the words “characteristic,” “minor,” “intermediate,” or “major” are used, these words describe the severity of thalassemia. A person with thalassemia may not have symptoms or moderate anemia, while a person with major thalassemia may have severe symptoms and may need regular blood transfusions to survive.
The symptoms include:
A gradual increase in children.
Broken bone or bones.
Light or pale skin.
In some people, symptoms appear at birth. In others, it may take a few years to see something. Some people will not show any symptoms at all.
In mild cases, you may feel tired and do not need treatment. But for severe cases, you need regular blood transfusions. Donated blood is a way to get the blood or parts of the blood that your body needs, such as hemoglobin. The number of times you need to transfer can vary from person to person. Occasionally, blood transfusions cause reactions such as high fever, nausea, diarrhea, chills, and low blood pressure.
People with moderate thalassemia have an increased risk of infection and iron deficiency. Some people with severe thalassemia have other health problems, such as bone problems, heart disease, or liver disease.
Living with thalassemia
It is possible to live a healthy life with thalassemia.
Follow these health tips to stay healthy:
- Do not take iron pills.
- Ask your doctor about supplements such as calcium and vitamin D.
- Stay away from sick people and clean your hands often.
- Follow a healthy diet to keep your bones strong and stable.
- Superstitions and facts
- Myth: Couples with thalassemia carriers will always have older thalassemia children.
- Fact: That is not true. When both partners are carriers of thalassemia, there is a 25% chance of thalassemia major in children, a 50% chance that thalassemia is mild, and a 25% chance of not having a normal carrier. And if the couple does not have just one or a career, none of the children will have thalassemia major.
Myth: Thalassemia cannot be prevented.
Fact: Thalassemia is 100% preventable. Thalassemia can be easily prevented by premarital screening or early pregnancy screening, followed by marital counseling and, if necessary, prenatal diagnosis.
Myth: There is no cure for thalassemia major.
Fact: Thalassemia major can lead to a normal life if they receive adequate blood transfusions and iron chelation therapy.
Myth: Thalassemia cannot be cured.
Fact: Thalassemia can be cured by a bone marrow transplant, but requires HLA-like siblings. However, an HLA compliant donor is not always available.
Thalassemia and COVID-19
There is no evidence that thalassemia makes carriers more susceptible to viruses. Patients with beta-thalassemia (or mild) features have no higher risk of coronavirus infection than other healthy people. Therefore, to prevent COVID-19, it is better to wash your hands regularly and follow the advice of social distance.
Patients with thalassemia major should continue their blood transfusion program. Follow a high level of personal hygiene, wear masks, and practice social distance in the hospital. Contact your own health care for the safest environment for the transition.
There is no evidence that thalassemia trait makes carriers more susceptible to the virus. Patients with beta-thalassemia trait (or minor) have no increased risk of infection from the coronavirus, compared to other healthy individuals. Therefore it is best to follow the advice of regular hand wash and social distancing to prevent COVID-19.
Patients suffering from thalassemia major must continue with their blood transfusion schedule. Follow high levels of personal hygiene, wear a mask, and practice social distancing at the hospital too. Check with your healthcare provider for the safest possible environment for receiving transfusions.