Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder. It is a type of blood disorder that affects the red blood cells. In this disorder, body is unable to produce normal and healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells perform an important function of carrying hemoglobin to different body parts and supply every cell with oxygen for their proper functioning. As healthy RBCs are not produced in thalassemia, this function of supply of oxygen is impaired and as a result, the cells cannot function properly, resulting in organ damage or dysfunction.
Prognosis For Thalassemia
The prognosis for thalassemia is good with proper treatment plan. Patients with thalassemia minor can usually lead a normal life with near normal longevity. Those suffering from thalassemia intermedia and thalassemia major can also have a good chance of normal life and quite a long-term survival rate, provided they undergo the recommended treatment which consists of blood transfusions and iron chelation therapy, as prescribed by their specialists. Iron overload can lead to serious heart diseases and this becomes a major concern for people with thalassemia, as this is the leading cause of death in them. Hence, following the iron chelation therapy as recommended by the specialist is of utmost importance to decrease the chances of getting a heart disease. Bone marrow transplant may cure thalassemia in minor, intermedia and some major cases.
Those suffering from a mild thalassemia trait generally do not require any treatment
- They can avail genetic counseling however, as they can pass the defected gene to their children
- Those suffering from hemoglobin H disease or beta thalassemia intermedia may show moderate to severe symptoms and anemia
- They can lead a normal life, with regular monitoring and occasional transfusions
- Those suffering from beta thalassemia major may present with more severe symptoms and may need frequent blood transfusions, almost every few weeks
- They will also need chelation therapy so that they can remove excess iron from their bodies
- The blood transfusions will help in maintaining hemoglobin at enough levels to supply to all organs of body and prevent slow growth and organ damage
However, these frequent blood transfusions can increase iron levels in the body to toxic levels and hence, chelation therapy will be needed to remove this excess iron to prevent vital organs from getting damaged
Bone marrow transplant is considered for treatment of beta thalassemia major.
Complications of thalassemia can include the following-
Overload of iron-
- People suffering from thalassemia can get an overload of iron in their bodies
- This can be either due to too many blood transfusions or because of eth disease itself
- Overload of iron in the blood can damage your vital organs like heart and liver
- It can also damage the endocrine system, the system which comprises of hormone making glands
- As a result, various processes in the body can get affected
- People with thalassemia are more prone to infections
- This is mainly because of the frequent blood transfusions
Deformities in bone-
- Thalassemia can damage the bone marrow
- As a result, the bones may widen, and it may lead to deformities
- The damage to the bone marrow can also make the bones brittle and increase your chances of getting broken bones
- Enlarged spleen or splenomegaly is a complication of thalassemia, which happens because the spleen must work harder than normal, as a lot of red blood cells are damaged in thalassemia
- Splenomegaly can further make things worse by reducing the life of red blood cells obtained through transfusion
Delayed or slow growth-
- Anemia can cause a slow growth in a child and thalassemia can result in delayed puberty.
Thalassemia is a type of blood disorder, which is genetic in origin. It is neither curable nor it can be prevented. However, with a prompt and an efficient treatment the prognosis is good and the longevity of affected persons can be increased and they can lead an almost normal life by following the treatment prescribed by the specialist.
- Mayo Clinic. Thalassemia: Definition. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/thalassemia/symptoms-causes/syc-20354995
- MedlinePlus. Thalassemia. https://medlineplus.gov/thalassemia.html