Thalassemia is a group of inherited blood disorders that interfere with the body's normal production of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a substance that red blood cells need in order to carry oxygen to body tissues.

Thalassemia is inherited, passed on through genes from parent to child.

Symptoms of the disease vary. Some people have no symptoms or very mild symptoms, in which case they may not need treatment. Others develop symptoms of anemia, such as weakness, fatigue, lightheadedness, and pale skin.

People who have moderate to severe symptoms of anemia may require treatment. Treatment depends on the severity of the thalassemia. Treatment can include folic acid supplements, medicine, blood transfusions, or stem cell transplants from blood or bone marrow. Very rare forms of thalassemia may cause organ damage that can result in death.

Current as of: February 20, 2015

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology