Thalassemia

Mediterranean anemia; Cooley anemia; Beta thalassemia; Alpha thalassemia

Thalassemia is a blood disorder passed down through families (inherited) in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. The disorder results in large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed, which leads to anemia.

Thalassemia major

Thalassemia major is an inherited form of hemolytic anemia, characterized by red blood cell (hemoglobin) production abnormalities. This is the most severe form of anemia, and the oxygen depletion in the body becomes apparent within the first 6 months of life. If left untreated, death usually results within a few years. Note the small, pale (hypochromic), abnormally-shaped red blood cells associated with thalassemia major. The darker cells likely represent normal RBCs from a blood transfusion.

Thalassemia minor

Thalassemia minor is an inherited form of hemolytic anemia that is less severe than thalassemia major. This blood smear from an individual with thalassemia shows small (microcytic), pale (hypochromic), variously-shaped (poikilocytosis) red blood cells. These small red blood cells (RBCs) are able to carry less oxygen than normal RBCs.

Causes

Symptoms

Exams and Tests

Treatment

Outlook (Prognosis)

Possible Complications

When to Contact a Medical Professional