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This Cardiologist Shares Tips On Managing Symptoms Of Thalassemia Minor

Maintaining steady blood flow should be thought of as a vital part of your wellbeing. This includes the processes and arteries involving the blood and its many functions. However, there are conditions which can compromise the blood and its ability to deliver important things throughout the body.

Thalassemia minor is one such condition. This blood disorder may be more common than people think and yet, it is also rather complicated to deal with.

red blood cells

Maintaining a healthy red blood cell count and managing iron levels are part and parcel of the concerns that many patients might face. Cardiologist Dr VP Nair shared some tips on how thalassemia minor is diagnosed and treated. Here's what he had to share.

What is thalassemia minor?

arm with vein

Dr VP Nair stated that thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that's caused when the body doesn't make enough haemoglobin, which is an integral part of red blood cell formation. This disorder can lead to anaemia (slight lowering of the haemoglobin). Thalassemia minor is a less severe form of this disease.

Thalassemia minor can cause anaemia

tired napping girl on desk

Those with thalassemia minor may experience mild anaemia (slight lowering of the haemoglobin). This can resemble iron-deficiency anaemia, except that people with thalassemia minor have normal blood iron levels. If patients are iron deficient, it's usually caused by other reasons.

It can also cause heart failure!

toy heart with stethoscope 

Dr Nair warned that at its worst, thalassemia can possibly cause heart failure which, of course, puts victims in a life or death situation. This is the reason that this condition is an important diagnosis for cardiologists like him.

Physical examination can be used to make a diagnosis

doctor speaking to a patient 

How is thalassemia minor diagnosed by doctors? Well, a physical examination is one way. For example, identifying a severely enlarged spleen could suggest haemoglobin H disease. Similarly, a blood test known as haemoglobin electrophoresis can also be performed.

There are four main types of treatments

patient and doctor speaking

When it comes to thalassemia minor, there are 4 main ways to treat the condition. Blood transfusions can be carried out as a way of restoring balance and wellbeing to the blood flow and supply of haemoglobin. A bone marrow transplant, medications or supplements, and possible surgery to remove the spleen are all also possible.

Blood transfusions, however, can be risky

blood in test tubes 

Patients who receive blood transfusions could receive extra iron that the body can't regulate. If excessive iron builds up, it can lead to some devastatingly fatal consequences.

Thalassemia is genetic, so it can't be prevented

asian family with children 

As with any genetic disorder, thalassemia can't really be prevented if it is already running in your family and you happen to be affected. However, there are ways to manage the disease and help prevent complications.

A healthy diet can help a lot

fish fillet dinner

A low-fat, plant-based diet is great for those with thalassemia, just limit those iron-rich foods (such as fish and meats) if you already have high iron levels in your blood. Fortified cereal, bread, and juices contain high iron levels too.

So can exercise!

kids running at the beach

Moderate-intensity workouts are best for patients (as long as they aren't too intense). Heavy exercise can worsen symptoms so walking or bike riding, swimming, and yoga are all good options. 

Thalassemia major may require more treatment

 

stethoscope on a table

Some thalassemia carriers may not have any symptoms at all (or may have only mild anaemia). On the other hand, a person with thalassemia major could have severe symptoms and require regular blood transfusions.

How you discover your condition is determined by severity

blood in a bag

Those with less severe forms of thalassemia may only realise there's something wrong when there are symptoms of anaemia or when a doctor finds anaemia through a routine blood test. On the other hand, those with severe forms tend to discover their condition in childhood (symptoms develop early in life).

Thalassemia is common in certain parts of the world

kids running in puddles

Thalassemia is inherited, which means that somebody had a similar condition in your family at some point. In addition, traits related to thalassemia are common in people from Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Turkey or certain parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

Thalassemia can ultimately be a life-long burden to those who have been affected by it. However, it doesn't have to be the bane of your existence. The condition is manageable, so be proactive enough to seek medical treatment before it's too late.


References: 

1. Gretchen Holm and Kristeen Cherney. Thalassemia. April 11, 2017. Accessed March 2019.

2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Anemia. Aug. 08, 2017. Accessed March 2019.

3. WebMD. Blood Transfusion: What to Know If You Get One. Accessed March 2019.

4. WebMD. Too Much Iron in Your Blood? Accessed March 2019.

5. Thalassemia.com.Genetics of Thalassemia. Accessed March 2019.

6. WebMD. Iron-Rich Foods. Accessed March 2019.

7. Thalassemia.com.Living With Thalassemia. Accessed March 2019.

8. Singhealth. Anaemia. Accessed March 2019.

9. Everyday Health. Are You Anemic? Accessed March 2019.

10. Very Well Health. Thalassemia: Understanding the Inherited Blood Disorder. August 07, 2017. Accessed March 2019.

243 views 12 Mar 2019 Medically reviewed by Dr VP Nair, last update on 15 Mar 2019
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