β-thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder
β-thalassemia (BAY‑tah THAL‑a‑SEE‑mee‑ah) is an inherited condition, which means it is passed down from parents to children. It is a disorder that can lead to anemia, which is a low number of red blood cells or a low amount of hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying molecule in red blood cells. Roughly 55% of patients are older than 20 years (average age 23.2 years).
What causes β‑thalassemia?
In people with β‑thalassemia, hemoglobin may not be made correctly. Normal, healthy hemoglobin includes 2 sets of 2 different proteins: an alpha and a beta. In many people with β-thalassemia, “beta globin” proteins are not formed correctly. If your body does not produce enough of either protein, red blood cells do not form properly and cannot carry the oxygen your organs need to stay healthy. This could result in anemia, which may be severe enough to require red blood cell transfusions.
β-thalassemia can cause symptoms of anemia and other conditions
If you have anemia, you may feel tired, weak, or have pale skin. Your doctor will measure hemoglobin to help determine if you have anemia. When you have anemia due to β-thalassemia, there can be complications, such as an enlarged spleen or brittle bones.
- If anemia causes the spleen to become enlarged, some patients with β‑thalassemia will have it removed through a surgery called a splenectomy