Thalassemia is a genetic condition that can lead to many complications, with anemia being one of the hallmarks. Treatments can help keep anemia from developing.

Thalassemia and anemia are both red blood cell conditions, and they’re often linked. However, they’re not the same condition. Although the conditions are separate, thalassemia, a genetic condition, often leads to anemia.

Treating thalassemia can help prevent anemia and other complications. Keep reading to learn more about how they differ.

Thalassemia is an inherited condition that causes your body to make an atypical form of the protein hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells and carries oxygen. When you have thalassemia, red blood cells don’t get the right amount of oxygen and are destroyed.

This can lead to anemia, a health condition that occurs when your body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.

This means that although thalassemia can lead to anemia, they aren’t the same condition.

Also, there are many things that can lead to anemia, including nutritional deficiencies, chronic conditions, and injuries. Thalassemia is always caused by genetics.

Types of Thalassemia

There are two primary types of thalassemia:

  • Alpha thalassemia: People with alpha thalassemia have a change to the gene that makes the alpha globin protein. A child inherits two of these genes from each parent.
  • Beta thalassemia: People with beta thalassemia have a change to the gene that makes the beta globin protein. A child inherits one of these genes from each parent.

Each primary type of thalassemia has multiple subtypes. Learn more about thalassemia here.

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Not everyone with thalassemia has symptoms. Symptoms often develop in late childhood or adolescence and might include:

However, it’s also possible to have severe thalassemia. This is called thalassemia major, a type of thalassemia beta. This type of thalassemia typically causes symptoms that appear before a child’s second birthday. These symptoms include:

Anemia can be mild, moderate, or severe. If you have mild anemia, you might not experience any symptoms. When symptoms of anemia occur, they can include:

Thalassemia often quickly leads to anemia, but it’s possible to have it without developing anemia. Treating thalassemia can help prevent anemia.

For instance, you can take iron supplements and other medications, and if you have moderate or severe thalassemia you might receive regular blood transfusions to prevent anemia and other complications.

More treatments, such as stem cell transplants, can also be options.

Thassalemia and anemia are closely linked conditions, but they aren’t the same. Thalassemia is a genetic condition that damages your red blood cells, and anemia is a condition caused by a lack of healthy red blood cells.

This means that it’s common for thalassemia to lead to anemia.

Treating thalassemia with options such as iron supplements, medications, blood transfusions, and bone marrow transplants, can help prevent anemia and other complications.