Beta-Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that impairs the body's ability to produce hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. The disease can take two forms:
- Thalassemia intermedia, which appears in early childhood and causes mild to moderate anemia.
- Thalassemia major, or Cooley's anemia, which is more severe and potentially life-threatening.
Children with Thalassemia major develop severe, progressive anemia in the first months of life. They have reduced immunity to infection and may experience delayed growth, liver damage and bone deformities.
Treatments for Thalassemia major include regular blood transfusions, medication to prevent toxic iron buildup, and folic acid supplements. More severe cases may require bone marrow transplantation or removal of the spleen.
Beta-Thalassemia is more common among people of Southern European (Mediterranean), Southeast Asian, Hispanic, African, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Sephardi Jewish descent.
People who carry one copy of the gene mutation for Beta-Thalassemia are said to have the Beta-Thalassemia "trait" and may suffer from mild anemia.
For more information on Beta-Thalassemia, see Thallasemia.org.