Feature Quiz: Thalassemia - Alt Text Version
Question 1: What are the two major types of thalassemia?
Alpha thalassemia: a condition in which the body does not produce enough alpha globin (a component of hemoglobin)
Beta thalassemia: a condition in which the body does not produce enough beta globin (another component of hemoglobin)
Question 2: What ethnic groups are most at risk for thalassemia?
Answer: Thalassemia occurs most frequently among people of Italian, Greek, African, Southern Asian, and Middle Eastern descent.
Question 3: How is thalassemia treated?
Answer: Thalassemia is most often treated with red blood cell transfusions.
Question 4: What is iron overload?
Answer: People with thalassemia are treated with blood transfusions. Frequent blood transfusions can result in too much iron in the blood. This is called iron overload. Because there is no natural way for the body to eliminate iron, the iron from transfused blood cells builds up and becomes toxic to tissues and organs, particularly the liver and heart. Iron overload can result in early death from organ failure.
Preventing iron overload requires regular treatment with medicines to rid the body of the excess iron.
Question 5: Is there a cure for thalassemia?
A procedure called a bone marrow transplant is the only cure currently available for thalassemia. However, as this procedure can be risky, it is often reserved for people with the most severe problems from thalassemia.
Question 6: Is thalassemia contagious?
Answer: No, you cannot “catch” thalassemia from someone who has it.
Thalassemia is a genetic condition. A person with thalassemia inherited it from his or her parents. For more information on the inheritance of thalassemia, see http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/beta-thalassemia and http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/alpha-thalassemia.