5 ways thalassemia affects your body

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that affects the body’s ability to produce hemoglobin and red blood cells.

Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow while hemoglobin is the protein inside the red blood cells that carries oxygen.

The disorder results in large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed, which leads to anaemia. Severe forms of the disorder may require regular blood transfusions

Symptoms of thalassemia 

  • Tiredness, low energy, or muscle weakness (fatigue)
  • Lack of appetite
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes)
  • Facial bone deformities
  • Slow growth
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Dark urine


1. Excess iron

People who receive a lot of blood transfusions are at risk of iron overload. Red blood cells contain a lot of iron, and over time, the iron from repeated blood transfusions can build up in the body.

Excessive iron can harm the spleen, heart, and liver.

2. Enlarged spleen (splenomegaly)

The spleen helps your body fight infection and filter unwanted material, such as old or damaged blood cells. Thalassemia can cause red blood cells to die at a faster rate, making the spleen work harder, which makes it grow larger.

If your spleen grows too big, you may require surgery to remove it.

3. Infection

People with thalassemia have an increased risk of infection especially due to infections attributed to regular blood transfusions. Some infections, like hepatitis, can be carried in blood.

This is especially true if you have had your spleen removed.

4. Bone deformities

Skeletal deformities may result as the body tries to produce more bone marrow. It can make your bone marrow expand, which causes your bones to widen.

This can result in abnormal bone structure, especially in your face and skull. Bone marrow expansion also makes bones thin and brittle, increasing the chance of broken bones.

5. Slowed growth rates

The anaemia resulting from thalassemia can cause children to grow more slowly and also can lead to delayed puberty.


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