Thalassemia Day: Thalassemia, Symptoms, Causes and Medical Solutions

Every year May 8 is commemorated as World Thalassemia Day. The day was established by Thalassemia International Federation in the year 1994. It was remembered in the loving memory of George Englezos, who was the son of Thalassemia International Federation’s (TIF) founder, Panos Englezos, and all thalassemia patients who fought the disease. Around 270 million people in the world are suffering from Thalassemia. Following this India has the largest 1 to 1.5 lakh Thalassemia major children. Study says around 10,000 to 15,000 Thalassemia Major children are born every year.

What is Thalassemia?

Thalassemia is a genetic blood disorder caused when the body doesn’t make enough haemoglobin, a protein which is very important for red blood cells.

The disorder results in excessive annihilation of red blood cells, which leads to anaemia. This may result in fewer healthy red blood cells travelling in the bloodstream.

Types of Thalassemia

There are mainly three types of thalassemia:

  1. Beta- This occurs when your body can’t produce beta-globin. Two genes, one from each parent, are responsible to make beta-globin. This includes two serious subtypes: thalassemia major and thalassemia intermedia.
  1. Alpha- This occurs when the body can’t make alpha-globin. Four genes, two from each parent can make alpha-globin. This also has two serious subtypes: haemoglobin H disease and hydrops details.
  1. minor- People suffering from thalassemia minor don’t have any symptoms. It may likely be minor anaemia. You can be a carrier of the disease even if you don’t have any of the symptoms.

Causes of Thalassemia

Thalassemia occurs when there is a mutation in the DNA of cells that make haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the substance in the red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout your body. You can’t catch this as you catch flu or cold. The disease is passed from parents to children.

You may develop a thalassemia minor if only one of your parents is a bearer. In this, you may develop minor symptoms or sometimes no symptoms, but you will be a carrier.

It becomes more serious if both of your parents’ have inherent thalassemia.

It is a common disease mainly found in people from the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey and Greece.

Symptoms of Thalassemia

Everyone doesn’t have visible symptoms. It may tend to show up later in childhood or adolescence. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • excessive tiredness and fatigue
  • delayed development and growth
  • dark urine
  • yellow or pale skin
  • bone deformities
  • shortness of breath
  • a fast heartbeat

Medical Solutions

A person gets treated depending on the type and severity of the disease involved. Doctors will give you treatment by seeing the nature and severity of your case.

Some of the common medical solutions include:

  • bone marrow transplant
  • medications and supplements
  • surgery to remove the gallbladder or spleen
  • blood transfusions
  • Iron chelation

Your doctor may suggest you not take vitamins or supplements containing iron if you need blood transfusions. Because it accumulates extra iron in the body, which can be deadly.

Theme

Thalassemia International Federation (TIF) announced the theme is:
“Be Aware, Share, Care: Working with the global community as one to improve thalassemia knowledge.”

Awareness Campaigns and NGOs

There are various campaigns and NGOs that work for children suffering from Thalassemia:

  • National Thalassemia Prevention Campaign
  • Red Cross Society
  • Sahiyog, Bhopal
  • Youth Brigade, Bhopal

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