HCA UK's experts can help to diagnose and treat a range of blood conditions, caused by reduced levels of haemoglobin.

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About thalassaemia

Thalassaemia is an inherited condition that affects your red blood cells. If you have thalassaemia, your body produces a reduced amount of haemoglobin, which helps your red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. As a result you may develop anaemia (where your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells or haemoglobin to meet its needs).

Need to know

The most common symptoms of thalassaemia are:

  • feeling tired
  • being short of breath
  • pale complexion
  • irregular heart beat (palpitations)
  • excess iron in the blood

Symptoms of thalassaemia can develop soon after birth, and the condition mainly affects people who are of Mediterranean, South Asian, Southeast Asian and Middle Eastern origin. The condition doesn't cause any serious health problems, although as it is caused by faulty genes, it is possible to pass on the condition to your children. Therefore, it's important to speak to your GP or consultant if you are considering starting a family.

Thalassaemia is most commonly diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth, as part of the newborn blood spot test (heel prick test).

Your GP or consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and may recommend you for further tests, including blood tests to check the amount of haemoglobin that you have in your blood, and to see if you're a carrier of the faulty gene. The main types of thalassaemia are:

  • alpha thalassaemia, which is rare and causes minimal health risks
  • beta thalassaemia, which is more likely to be passed on to your children

Treatment options for thalassaemia depend on the extent of your condition and your general health and fitness.

These may include:

  • annual review and general health review
  • blood transfusions (where blood is taken from a donor and transfused to you)
  • iron overload management and monitoring with MRI scanning
  • chelation therapy to reduce excess iron that can build up in the body as a result of regular blood transfusions
  • stem cell or bone marrow transplants
  • lifestyle management (eating a healthy diet, not smoking and doing regular exercise)

Our Thalassaemia locations

The Harley Street Clinic

The Harley Street Clinic

35 Weymouth Street W1G 8BJ London
University College Hospital Private Care

University College Hospital Private Care

Grafton Way Building, 1 Grafton Way WC1E 6AG London
The Princess Grace Hospital

The Princess Grace Hospital

42-52 Nottingham Place W1U 5NY London
The Lister Hospital

The Lister Hospital

Chelsea Bridge Road, SW1W 8RH London
The Shard Outpatients

The Shard Outpatients

The Shard, 32 St Thomas Street SE1 9BS London
London Bridge Hospital

London Bridge Hospital

27 Tooley Street SE1 2PR London

Patient stories

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.