Quoting --Aly--: I just tried to Wikipedia that, but all I got out of my quick read was that it causes Anemia? I know there has to be more. Lol. Dumb it down for me.
Here is some info about it...
Thalassemia is a general name for a group of inherited blood diseases. They involve abnormalities in hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying part of the red blood cells. Hemoglobin is mainly made up of two kinds of protein, called alpha and beta globin. Individuals with thalassemia do not produce enough of one (or occasionally both) of these proteins. As a result, their red blood cells may be abnormal and unable to carry enough oxygen throughout the body.
The two main types of thalassemia are called alpha and beta thalassemia. Individuals with alpha thalassemia do not produce enough alpha globin, and those with beta thalassemia lack sufficient beta globin. There are a number of different forms of alpha and beta thalassemias, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.
Thalassemia is among the most common inherited disorders caused by a single abnormal gene. More than 100,000 babies worldwide are born each year with severe forms of thalassemia, according to the National Academy of Sciences (1). Thalassemia occurs most frequently in people of Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, Southern Asian and African ancestry.
What is alpha thalassemia?
There are at least five main types of alpha thalassemia. These are most common in people of Southeast Asian, Indian, southern Chinese, Middle Eastern, and African ancestry (2). There are four genes that control the production of alpha globin. The severity of the condition is determined by how many of these genes are missing or abnormal.
- Silent carrier, the mildest form, has one alpha globin gene missing or abnormal. Affected individuals generally have no symptoms, but they can pass on the genetic abnormality to their children.
- Alpha thalassemia minor, in which two alpha globin genes are missing or abnormal, usually does not cause major health problems. However, affected individuals may have mild anemia and can pass the condition on to their children.
- Hemoglobin H disease is caused by having only one normal alpha globin gene. The condition results in abnormalities in the red blood cells and rapid destruction of these cells. Most affected individuals have mild to moderate anemia and can live fairly normal lives. The anemia may temporarily worsen when the individual has a viral infection or when they are treated with certain medications (such as sulfa drugs) (3). Some affected individuals eventually develop complications, such as an enlarged spleen and gallstones (3). Individuals with hemoglobin H disease should receive regular medical care to detect and treat these complications. Some may need occasional blood transfusions (4).
- Hemoglobin H-Constant Spring is a more severe form of hemoglobin H disease. Affected individuals have one normal alpha globin gene, plus one abnormal one that carries a specific mutation (change) called Constant Spring. Those with this condition generally have moderate to severe anemia and often develop complications, such as an enlarged spleen. Some need blood transfusions from time to time, such as when they develop an illness with a fever, while others need more frequent transfusions (3, 4).
- Alpha thalassemia major, the most severe form, results from having no genes for the production of alpha globin. Affected fetuses suffer from severe anemia, heart failure and fluid buildup. They usually are stillborn, but some die in the first hours after birth. In rare cases, babies diagnosed and treated before birth with blood transfusions have survived. These babies require lifelong blood transfusions (4).