What is Thalassemia?
Thalassemia is an inherited characteristic of the blood. It reduces the amount of hemoglobin in a human body, leading to anemia.
What is Anemia?
Deficiency or a lesser count of red blood cells, or too little hemoglobin in blood, is ‘Anemia’ – which simply means a shortage of blood. If the anemia is mild, it does no harm but if it is severe, the person becomes ill, as the tissues do not have sufficient oxygen.
Children with Thalassemia are well at birth, but as they grow they are not able to make adult hemoglobin and usually become ill due to anemia before they are 18 months old. So they become pale, do not grow as well as they should, and often have a big spleen. Nearly all children with Thalassemia of any type become ill before 2 years of age, and need blood transfusions.
If Thalassemic patients remain untreated, the anemia gets worse, the child stops growing altogether, and the spleen goes on getting bigger making the tummy very big. The bone marrow (the tissue that forms the red blood cells) expands inside the bones, trying to make more and more red cells. But the red cells it makes do not contain enough hemoglobin, and simply die without ever getting of the bone marrow. However, the marrow’s effort to expand makes the bones weak and alters their shape to give a deformed look. As time passes, the spleen, whose normal job is to destroy old red blood cells in the circulation, begins to destroy young red blood cells too, and finally also the white blood cells and the platelets. So in the end, the spleen makes the child’s illness worse.
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