Thalassemia

By Kinga Aitken-Baboczi MD MPH

 

Planning on having a child? Find out if you or your partner is a thalassemia carrier!

 

Couple Holding Infant ShoesBecoming a parent is a wonderful part of life. It takes careful planning and scheduling. It is important for future parents to be aware of the scare that genetic disorders pose and get screened.

 

Thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder where the body produces an abnormal form of hemoglobin, is the most common genetic disorder in Singapore. According to research, in Singapore 1 in 20 people is a thalassemia carrier. Alpha thalassemia is the most common form of the disease in individuals of Southeast Asian, Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern and African descent.

 

Thalassemia is caused by defects in the genes that make up hemoglobin. The disorder is characterized by excessive red blood cell destruction, which leads to anemia.

 

There are two types of thalassemia: Alpha and Beta. Both types can be major or minor.

 

Thalassemia minor occurs when a child inherits the defective gene from only one of the parents. Usually this form of the disease does not have any symptoms and does not require treatment.

A child must inherit the defective gene from both parents in order to develop thalassemia major. This form of the disease is treated with regular blood transfusions followed by chelation therapy that removes the excess iron from the body. Children may also benefit from a bone marrow transplant. Untreated thalassemia major can lead to early death due to heart failure.

While some children show symptoms at births others may not show symptoms until later in their first year of life. Some of the symptoms include: jaundice, shortness of breath, fatigue, growth failure, facial bone deformities, protruding abdomen and dark urine.

 

If you have a family history of thalassemia and you are suspicious about your child having this condition contact RingMD`s specialists for a free consultation!  You can find us at http://ring.md/

 

Since thalassemia is a genetic disorder, it cannot be prevented through lifestyle changes. Couples planning on becoming pregnant are encouraged to get screened to know if they are carriers of the defective gene and what are the chances for their baby to inherit the disorder.

 

Living with thalassemia:

  • Maintain a healthy diet,
  • Avoid excess iron from vitamins and supplements,
  • Avoid infections,
  • Keep up with your vaccinations.
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