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Thalassemia

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Treatment

Most individuals with mild thalassemia traits require no treatment. They may want to consider genetic counseling, however, because they may pass the mutant gene on to their children.

People with hemoglobin H disease or beta thalassemia intermedia will experience variable amounts of anemia throughout their life. They can live relatively normal lives but will require regular monitoring and may occasionally need blood transfusion. Folic acid supplementation is often given, but iron supplementation is not recommended.

Those with beta thalassemia major will usually require regular blood transfusions, as frequently as every few weeks, and chelation therapy to remove iron throughout their life. These transfusions help maintain hemoglobin at a high enough level to provide oxygen to the body and prevent growth abnormalities and organ damage. Frequent transfusions, however, can raise body iron to toxic levels, resulting in deposits of iron in the liver, heart, and other organs. Regular iron chelation therapy is used to help decrease iron in the body.

Bone marrow transplant known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation can also be used for treatment of beta thalassemia major.

Fetuses with alpha thalassemia major are usually miscarried, stillborn, or die shortly after birth. Experimental treatments, such as fetal blood transfusions and even fetal marrow transplant, have been successful in a very few cases in bringing a baby to term.

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