Beta thalassemia is a group of inherited blood disorders that affect the production of beta globin, a component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s tissues. When there is a defect in the HBB gene, which produces the beta globin, the body produces abnormal hemoglobin, leading to the destruction of red blood cells and a shortage of oxygen in the body. This inherited condition is passed down from parents to their children through their genes.
The symptoms of beta thalassemia can vary depending on the type and severity of the disorder. The most common symptoms include:
- Fatigue and weakness: Due to the lack of oxygen in the body, individuals with beta thalassemia may experience fatigue and weakness.
- Pale or yellowish skin: Anemia, a common complication of beta thalassemia, can cause the skin to take on a pale or yellowish color.
- Dark urine: The destruction of red blood cells can cause dark urine.
- Enlarged spleen: The spleen may become enlarged as it tries to remove the abnormal red blood cells from the body.
- Delayed growth and development: Children with beta thalassemia may experience delayed growth and development.
- Bone deformities: the lack of oxygen in the bones can cause them to expand or be less dense.
Types of Beta Thalassemia
There are two main types of beta thalassemia: beta-thalassemia minor and beta-thalassemia major.
- Beta thalassemia minor, also known as “trait” or “carrier” beta thalassemia, occurs when an individual inherits a single defective copy of the HBB gene from one parent. Individuals with beta thalassemia minor typically do not have any symptoms and do not require treatment. Read About Beta Thalassemia Minor
- Beta thalassemia major, also known as “Cooley’s anemia,” occurs when an individual inherits two defective copies of the HBB gene, one from each parent. This is a severe form of the disorder and can cause severe anemia, which may require regular blood transfusions and other treatments. Read About Beta Thalassemia Major
Treatment and Management
Treatment for beta thalassemia depends on the type and severity of the disorder. The main goal of treatment is to manage the symptoms and prevent complications.
- Blood transfusions: Individuals with beta thalassemia major may require regular blood transfusions to replace the missing hemoglobin.
- Iron chelation therapy: Blood transfusions can cause a buildup of iron in the body, which can damage the liver, heart, and other organs. Iron chelation therapy is used to remove excess iron from the body.
- Bone marrow transplant: A bone marrow transplant can cure beta thalassemia by replacing the damaged bone marrow with healthy cells.
- Gene therapy: Gene therapy is a relatively new approach for treating beta thalassemia, which is under development and research. It aims to correct the genetic mutation that causes beta thalassemia, by introducing a healthy copy of the gene into the person’s cells.
Beta thalassemia is a serious inherited blood disorder that affects the production of beta globin. It can cause a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, weakness, and anemia. Treatment for beta thalassemia depends on the type and severity of the disorder, but it often involves blood transfusions, iron chelation therapy, and bone marrow transplants. Research is ongoing to develop new treatments, such as gene therapy