Information for Patients
Also called: Cooley's anemia, Mediterranean anemia
Thalassemias are inherited blood disorders. If you have one, your body makes fewer healthy red blood cells and less hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to the body. That leads to anemia. Thalassemias occur most often among people of Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Southern Asian, and African descent.
Thalassemias can be mild or severe. Some people have no symptoms or mild anemia. The most common severe type in the United States is called Cooley's anemia. It usually appears during the first two years of life. People with it may have severe anemia, slowed growth and delayed puberty, and problems with the spleen, liver, heart, or bones.
Doctors diagnose thalassemias using blood tests. Treatments include blood transfusions and treatment to remove excess iron from the body. If you have mild symptoms or no symptoms, you may not need treatment. In some severe cases, you may need a bone marrow transplant.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- Thalassemia (Medical Encyclopedia)
Alpha thalassemia Alpha thalassemia is a blood disorder that reduces the production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body.In people with the characteristic features of alpha thalassemia, a reduction in the amount of hemoglobin prevents enough oxygen from reaching the body's tissues. Affected individuals also have a shortage of red blood cells (anemia), which can cause pale skin, weakness, fatigue, and more serious complications.Two types of alpha thalassemia can cause health problems. The more severe type is known as hemoglobin Bart hydrops fetalis syndrome, which is also called Hb Bart syndrome or alpha thalassemia major. The milder form is called HbH disease.Hb Bart syndrome is characterized by hydrops fetalis, a condition in which excess fluid builds up in the body before birth. Additional signs and symptoms can include severe anemia, an enlarged liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly), heart defects, and abnormalities of the urinary system or genitalia. As a result of these serious health problems, most babies with this condition are stillborn or die soon after birth. Hb Bart syndrome can also cause serious complications for women during pregnancy, including dangerously high blood pressure with swelling (preeclampsia), premature delivery, and abnormal bleeding.HbH disease causes mild to moderate anemia, hepatosplenomegaly, and yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). Some affected individuals also have bone changes such as overgrowth of the upper jaw and an unusually prominent forehead. The features of HbH disease usually appear in early childhood, and affected individuals typically live into adulthood.