Thalassaemia

Reduced levels of haemoglobin in the blood

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

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

  • Symptoms of thalassaemia icon plus

    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.
  • Diagnosis icon plus

    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
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    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)

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