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What are the symptoms of thalassemia minor, and how can I maintain a healthy RBC count and iron level?

Health & Fitness Cardiology

What are the symptoms of thalassemia minor? Moving forward, what can I do to maintain a healthy RBC count or iron level, especially as I grow older. Thank you.

DOCTOR’S ANSWER (1)

People with thalassemia minor may have mild anemia (slight lowering of the hemoglobin).

This may resemble mild iron-deficiency anemia.

However, people with thalassemia minor have a normal blood iron level (unless they are iron deficient for other reasons). 

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder caused when the body doesn’t make enough of hemoglobin, an important part of red blood cells. 

In severe cases, heart failure is a possibility. This is the reason why Thalassemia is an important diagnosis for Cardiologist like me.

How to diagnose thalassemia minor?

Physical examination might help to make a diagnosis. For example, a severely enlarged spleen might suggest hemoglobin H disease.

thalassemia test

Your doctor may also perform a blood test known as hemoglobin electrophoresis. This separates out the different molecules in the red blood cells, allowing the doctor to identify the abnormal type.

What are the treatments for thalassemia minor?

Some of the treatments include:

People who receive blood transfusions receive extra iron that the body can’t easily get rid of. Iron can build up in tissues, which can be potentially fatal.

How does thalassemia minor affect pregnancy?

Thalassemia also brings up different concerns related to pregnancy. The disorder affects reproductive organ development. Because of this, women with thalassemia may encounter fertility difficulties.

How can thalassemia minor be treated?

Since thalassemia is a genetic disorder, there’s no way to prevent it.

However, there are ways to manage the disease and to help prevent complications. Diet and exercise may be helpful.

A low-fat, plant-based diet is the best choice for most people, including those with thalassemia. However, you may need to limit iron-rich foods if you already have high iron levels in your blood.

Fish and meats are rich in iron, so you may need to limit these in your diet. You may also consider avoiding fortified cereals, breads, and juices. They contain high iron levels, too.

Moderate-intensity workouts are best since heavy exercise can make your symptoms worse. Walking and bike riding are examples of moderate-intensity workouts. Swimming and yoga are other options, and they’re also good for your joints. The key is to find something you enjoy and keep moving.

What causes thalassemia minor 

Hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to all cells in the body, is made of two different parts, called alpha and beta. When thalassemia is called “alpha” or “beta,” this refers to the part of hemoglobin that isn’t being made.

If either the alpha or beta part is not made, there aren’t enough building blocks to make normal amounts of hemoglobin.

Low alpha is called alphathalassemia.

Low beta is called beta thalassemia.

When the words “trait,” “minor,” “intermedia,” or “major” are used, these words describe how severe the thalassemia is.

A person who has thalassemia trait may not have any symptoms at all, or may have only mild anemia, while a person with thalassemia major may have severe symptoms and may need regular blood transfusions.

People with moderate and severe forms of thalassemia usually find out about their condition in childhood, since they have symptoms of severe anemia early in life.

People with less severe forms of thalassemia may only find out because they are having symptoms of anemia, or maybe because a doctor finds anemia on a routine blood test or a test done for another reason.

Thalassemia inheritance

Because thalassemias are inherited, the condition sometimes runs in families. Some people find out about their thalassemia because they have relatives with a similar condition.

People who have family members from certain parts of the world have a higher risk for having thalassemia. Traits for thalassemia are more common in people from Mediterranean countries, like Greece and Turkey, and in people from certain parts of Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.

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