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
- Facts about Thalassemia (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Learning about Thalassemia (National Human Genome Research Institute)
- Thalassemia (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Thalassemia (March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation) Also in Spanish
- Thalassemias (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)
Diagnosis and Tests
- Hemoglobinopathy Evaluation (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)
- My Story: Real Stories of People Living with Thalassemia (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Nutrition and Diet (Northern California Comprehensive Thalassemia Center)
- Thalassemia (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Thalassemia: Healthy Living (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Low Bone Mass in Thalassemia (Cooley's Anemia Foundation) - PDF
- Genetics Home Reference: alpha thalassemia (National Library of Medicine)
- Genetics Home Reference: alpha thalassemia X-linked intellectual disability syndrome (National Library of Medicine)
- Genetics Home Reference: beta thalassemia (National Library of Medicine)
- Genetics Home Reference: dyserythropoietic anemia and thrombocytopenia (National Library of Medicine)
- What Is Thalassemia Trait? (Cooley's Anemia Foundation) - PDF
Videos and Tutorials
- What Is Beta-Thalassemia? (Dolan DNA Learning Center)