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What is Thalassemia?

Thalassemia is the name for a group of inherited conditions that affect a substance in the blood called haemoglobin.  People with thalassemia produce either no or too little haemoglobin, which is used by red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.  This can make them very anaemic (tired, short of breath and pale).  It mainly affects people of Mediterranean, south Asian, southeast Asian and Middle Eastern origin.

There are different types of thalassemia, which can be divided into alpha and beta thalassemia's. Beta thalassemia major is the most severe type.  Other types include beta thalassemia intermedia, alpha thalassemia major and haemoglobin H disease.

It's also possible to be a "carrier" of thalassemia, also known as having the thalassemia trait.  Being a beta thalassemia carrier will not generally cause you any health problems, but you're at risk of having children with thalassemia.

Long Term Effects

Although the main health problems associated with thalassemia can often be managed with treatment, it's still a serious health condition that can have a significant impact on a person's life.

Even in mild cases, there's still a risk you could pass on a more serious type to your children. Close monitoring and regular treatment will be needed to prevent complications, such as organ damage in the future.