Thalassemia is a blood disorder caused by abnormal hemoglobin and red blood cell production. Hemoglobin assists your red blood cells in carrying oxygen. Less red blood cells and low hemoglobin may result in anemia. You may feel weak and fatigued all the time. You may also experience abdominal swelling, dark urine or pale skin. This is an inherited condition and can be diagnoses at early childhood stage. People with mild thalassemia may need blood transfusion. People with moderate to severe thalassemia require frequent blood transfusion. Stem cell transplant is another treatment for people suffering with severe thalassemia.
During blood transfusion, the components of your blood that are required in a particular region are transferred intravenously. If your condition requires frequent blood transfusions, there is a high possibility of iron building up in your blood. You will have to take regular medications to flush out the excess iron in your blood. Stem cell transplant, also known as bone marrow transplant, is a process wherein the patient’s stem cells are transplanted. The stem cells are usually derived from bone marrow or umbilical cord blood. This process is highly effective for children born with severe thalassemia. If done right at birth, it eliminates the need for blood transfusion and medications throughout life.
People who suffer from constant fatigue or weakness and are experiencing abdominal swelling, dark urine, pale skin or facial bone deformities are at high risk of being diagnosed with thalassemia. Also, people who have a family history involving thalassemia have a high chance of inheriting it.
If you are going through some other medical condition, the weakness, dark urine or pale skin may be due the medications being taken for it.
Blood transfusions can build up a huge amount of iron in your blood. You will have to take oral medications like deferasirox to remove the excess iron.
You must protect yourself from infections by frequently washing your hands with soap. You may also have to take folic acid supplements to increase the red blood cell count in your body. Your diet must be healthy and should contain adequate calcium and vitamin D. Do not take vitamin or other supplements that contain iron.
Mild thalassemia may be treated in a short time. Severe thalassemia may take a few years or even your whole life. You may have to keep getting blood transfusions regularly.
The cost of a blood transfusion process may be between ₹10000 - ₹ 15000. A bone marrow may cost anything between ₹20Lakh - ₹35Lakh.
Severe thalassemia cannot be treated fully unless treated right at birth. One might have to keep going for blood transfusion all their lives.
There is no alternative treatment for thalassemia but you can manage your thalassemia at home by taking a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D and maintaining very good hygienic conditions so that you stay away from infections.