Thalassemia (thal-uh-SEE-me-uh) is an inherited blood disorder characterized by less hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells in your body than normal. Several types of thalassemia exist, including alpha-thalassemia, beta-thalassemia intermedia, Cooley's anemia and Mediterranean anemia.

Hemoglobin is the substance in your red blood cells that allows them to carry oxygen. The low hemoglobin and fewer red blood cells of thalassemia may cause anemia, leaving you fatigued.

If you have mild thalassemia, you may not need treatment. But, if you have a more severe form of thalassemia, you may need regular blood transfusions. You can also take steps on your own to cope with fatigue, such as choosing a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Thalassemia symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale appearance
  • Yellow discoloration of skin (jaundice)
  • Facial bone deformities
  • Slow growth
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Dark urine

The signs and symptoms you experience depend on the type and severity of thalassemia you have. Some babies show signs and symptoms of thalassemia at birth, while others may develop signs or symptoms during the first two years of life. Some people who have only one affected hemoglobin gene don't experience any thalassemia symptoms.

When to see a doctor

Make an appointment with your child's doctor for an evaluation if he or she has any signs or symptoms that worry you.

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