Today is World Thalassemia Day and it is observed across the globe in solidarity with the patients fighting this disorder. This year’s theme for World Thalassemia Day is Get Inspired, Get Involved!
Thalassemias’ are rare, inherited blood disorders characterized by the abnormal production of hemoglobin, the protein molecule in red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body cells.
A genetic disorder inherited from the parents, Thalassemia is broadly divided into – alpha, beta and delta thalassemia and is most common among the descendants of Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, South Asian and African descent.
Patients with thalassemia suffer from mild to severe anemia causing extreme fatigue and making the skin pale. Children with thalassemia record slower growth rate while other problems include brittle bones, enlarged spleen, dark urine, heart ailments.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists strongly recommends screening for thalassemia in pregnant women and a genetic counselling for the families with a history of thalassemia.
The diagnosis is done through blood tests, hemoglobin electrophoresis, DNA mapping. The treatment for patients with thalassemia varies depending upon the severity of the condition. Many patients would often require blood transfusion, iron chelation, folic acid and bone marrow in few cases.
However, thalassemic patients are recommended to follow these lifestyle changes for a healthy living.
Thalassemic patients should always be mindful of their nutritional needs and they should strictly follow the diet chart recommended by the doctors. Adequate intake of vitamin C, vitamin D, folate, copper, zinc and selenium is suggested based on severity of the condition.
Patients with thalassemia should undergo regular blood tests to know the levels of albumin, vitamin D, fasting glucose, fasting plasma, zinc, selenium, copper, serum folate etc. Any abnormality in the results should be immediately reported to the doctor.
Avoid Iron In Excess:
Patients should avoid foods that are high on iron. Low iron diet along with folate supplements, black tea is recommended to decrease the absorption of iron into the blood. The patients should also never take vitamins and other supplements without the knowledge of the doctor.
Prevention Of Infections:
Thalassemia patients are at high risk of infections, especially those who had spleen removed. Frequent washing of hands, avoiding in contact with the sick will reduce the risk of infections.
Patients with this disorder would require regular vaccinations like annual flu shots, meningitis, pneumococcal, hepatitis B to prevent infections. If a patient develops fever or any infections after administering vaccine, see a doctor immediately.