Beta thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder. This means it is passed down through the parent’s genes. It is a form of anemia. Anemia is a low red blood cell or low hemoglobin level. Hemoglobin is part of red blood cells. It carries oxygen to organs, tissues and cells. Beta thalassemia affects the production of hemoglobin.
There are different types of thalassemia. The severity of anemia depends on the type of your child has.
Beta thalassemia is caused by a defect of the gene that controls hemoglobin production. There are three types:
The symptoms of beta thalassemia major occur when an infant is between six and 24 months. They include:
The symptoms of beta thalassemia intermedia happen at a later age and include:
Children with beta thalassemia minor have anemia, but often do not have symptoms.
The health care provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and health history. He or she will give your child a physical exam. Your child may also have tests, such as:
Beta thalassemia is an inherited problem. It is passed from parents to children.
The gene defect that causes beta thalassemia is more common in the following people:
Complications from frequent transfusions may happen when a child is about 10 or 11 years old. They are from having too much iron. The complications include:
Children with beta thalassemia intermedia may also have complications from iron overload.
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Your child's health care provider will likely send you to a hematologist. This is an expert in blood disorders. Treatment for beta thalassemia depends on the type. It may include:
Each child's symptoms and treatment is different. Make sure you understand your child's symptoms and treatment, including possible side effects. Call your child's provider if you notice any changes or have questions. For example, call the provider if your child has any of the following:
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Thalassemia is an inherited disorder that affects the production of normal hemoglobin (a type of protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues in the body).