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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.  [from MedlinePlus]

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beta Thalassemia

Beta-thalassemia (ß-thalassemia) is characterized by reduced synthesis of the hemoglobin subunit beta (hemoglobin beta chain) that results in microcytic hypochromic anemia, an abnormal peripheral blood smear with nucleated red blood cells, and reduced amounts of hemoglobin A (HbA) on hemoglobin analysis. Individuals with thalassemia major have severe anemia and hepatosplenomegaly; they usually come to medical attention within the first two years of life. Without treatment, affected children have severe failure to thrive and shortened life expectancy. Treatment with a regular transfusion program and chelation therapy, aimed at reducing transfusion iron overload, allows for normal growth and development and may improve the overall prognosis. Individuals with thalassemia intermedia present later and have milder anemia that only rarely requires transfusion. These individuals are at risk for iron overload secondary to increased intestinal absorption of iron as a result of ineffective erythropoiesis. [from GeneReviews]

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