Thalassemia: Blood Test Can Save Gen Next

Thalassemia: Blood Test Can Save Gen Next

Knowing Thalassemia

When it comes to haemoglobin in blood, anemia is something people are commonly aware of. What many people, however, do not know is that this anemia could either be due to iron-deficiency or thalassemia.

While anemia due to iron-deficiency can be controlled with proper medication and diet rich in iron content, the falling haemoglobin levels happening on account of thalassemia is a cause of concern as people suffering from its severe form have to deal with regular blood transfusions on lifelong basis.

In India, according to studies, around 30 million people carry beta thalassemia gene, and over 7,000 newborns are estimated to be affected with the blood disorder every year.

Understanding Thalassemia

A genetic disorder, a person affected with it has restricted production of haemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood. There are two globin proteins in haemoglobin — alpha and beta. Both of these are coded by a unique gene and a newborn has two copies of each of them, one each from the parents.

If the parents are the carriers of mutated or faulty globin protein, then the chances are their children will suffer from thalassemia. One or two mutated gene do not cause much health problem, but such people usually remain anemic.

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The severe forms of thalassemia — alpha major or alpha minor — is when the newborns have three or more faulty genes in the haemoglobin. While those with alpha major traits do not survive, those with beta thalassemia have to undergo regular blood transfusions for survival sake.

Blood Test: To Know Whether You Are Thalassemia Carrier

Thalassemia carriers lead a normal life, but they are normally anemic. It is difficult to gauge whether they bear one or two mutated genes until they go for blood test.

When should one go for blood test:

- If you get fatigued easily
- If you have poor appetite
- If you have large spleen, heart or lung
- If you have bone problems
- If you have slowed growth
- If you delayed puberty

In case you are diagnosed with anemia, and even after medication and proper diet the condition doesn’t improve, you must go for complete blood count or special haemoglobin tests that would help determine whether it is due to thalassemia or not.

While it is a fact that thalassemia carriers do not face any problems in leading a normal life, it is important for them to at least know they carry faulty haemoglobin genes. A simple blood test can help know their status and make them choose a life partner who is not affected with the blood disorder, so that the next generation children are thalassemia safe.

For questions related to thalassemia, Ask A Doctor On Lybrate.