Can You Die From Thalassemia?

Thalassemia is the disease which involves very vital constituent of the body i.e., hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the ingredient responsible for transporting oxygen and its low level leads to fatigue.

Can You Die From Thalassemia?

Can You Die From Thalassemia?

The prognosis of thalassemia depends upon the type of thalassemia a person is suffering from. There are two types of thalassemia. Thalassemia minor, which is the mild form of the disease, can be easily managed. No or very mild anemia is caused in this disease and no treatment therapy is required provided the patient is not iron deficient. The patient suffering from this type of thalassemia is known as carrier. This is due to the mutation in a single gene out of various genes responsible for the production of hemoglobin.

The prognosis of the patients suffering from thalassemia minor is favorable and does not lead to fatal consequences. Another, more severe form of thalassemia is thalassemia major. There is a complete absence of production of normal adult hemoglobin and the person suffered from severe anemia. The prognosis of such patients is not favorable and if the disease is not managed properly, it may lead to fatal consequences. Patients with thalassemia major feel severe fatigue, and they have slow growth and development.

The standard treatment of thalassemia disease is frequent blood transfusion. If the disease is not managed, the bone marrow is under stress to produce more RBC in reaction to anemia and thus bone deformity results. The patient, without treatment, does not able to live even the first decade of their life. Further the complications include organ failure due to severe anemic conditions. The frequent blood transfusions lead to increased iron load on the body and the iron starts accumulating in the vital organs leading to organ failure such as failure of liver and heart. Thus, the treatment also includes iron chelating drugs which binds the extra iron and remove them from the body.

The condition becomes more serious in case of illness and other infections. Some studies concluded that the highest death from the disease in patients requiring blood transfusions occurs due to cardiac disease and infection is the second common cause. The iron chelating agents are one of the prominent reasons for reduction in death from this disease.


Thalassemia is caused due to the genetic mutation of the genes responsible for the production of hemoglobin. The condition becomes symptomatic after the age of 6 months as up to 6 months, hemoglobin called fetal hemoglobin exists in the body, the synthesis of which is not controlled by the mutated genes. Following are the symptoms experienced by the patient suffering from thalassemia:

Fatigue: The patients with thalassemia feels mild to severe fatigue depending upon the severity of the disease. As RBC cells and hemoglobin are responsible for transporting oxygen to the tissues, less oxygen transportation leads to low energy production causing fatigue.

Anemia: Thalassemia is the disease related to a normal production of hemoglobin. This reduces the synthesis of RBC, leading to anemia. The patients suffering from thalassemia may have very mild form of anemia while with major form of this disease, the person has severe anemia.

Slow Growth And Development: The patient suffering from thalassemia have slow growth and development.

Bone Deformation: In response to anemia, the bone marrow is under stress to produce more and more red blood cells. Thus, due to stress on bone marrow, the bone deformation develops.

Iron Overload: Due to the frequent blood transfusions and iron absorption from the diet, the patient suffers from iron overload. This may prove fatal as the iron accumulates in various organs such as liver and heart.

Organ Failure: Severe anemia may lead to organ failure as the oxygen is not effectively delivered to these organs.

Pale Skin: The reddish color of the skin is due to hemoglobin. If the hemoglobin is very low in the blood, the color of the skin becomes pale.

Death: Unmanaged thalassemia may result in death.


If thalassemia is not managed properly, it may lead to death. However, frequent blood transfusion may also prove to be fatal as the iron starts accumulating in the vital organs such as liver and heart.

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Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 14, 2021

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