Thalassaemia is an inherited (genetic) condition affecting the blood.
If you have thalassaemia, a part of your red blood cell called haemoglobin is faulty –haemoglobin is the protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen. As a result, there isn’t enough normal haemoglobin, and the red blood cells break down too easily.
This gives you a lack of haemoglobin (anaemia), which comes with various symptoms. Meanwhile, your body tries to produce more haemoglobin and more red blood cells. The blood system goes into overproduction mode, which can cause more symptoms and complications.
There are different types of thalassaemia. Depending on which type you have, thalassaemia may cause no illness at all, or may be a serious, lifelong condition requiring treatment.
A bone marrow transplant can help to treat some people with thalassaemia, especially children.
If you have a brother or sister your doctors will normally test them first to see if they’re a match and you can have a transplant using their stem cells. If not, then they may consider an allograft transplant – where your new stem cells are donated from an unrelated donor. Or a haplo-identical transplant using stem cells from one of your relatives whose tissue types partially matches.
Information published: 06/10/16
Next review due: 06/10/19