Disease: Alpha Thalassemia

    Alpha Thalassemia Facts*

    *Alpha thalassemia facts medical author: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    • Alpha thalassemia is a blood disorder that reduces the production of normal hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body.
    • There are four types of alpha thalassemia, hemoglobin Bart hydrops fetalis syndrome or Hb Bart syndrome (the more severe form), HbH disease, silent carrier state and trait.
    • Alpha thalassemia occurs frequently in people from Mediterranean countries, North Africa, the Middle East, India, and Central Asia.
    • Alpha thalassemia typically results from deletions involving the HBA1 and HBA2 genes.
    • People who have alpha thalassemia trait can have mild anemia. However, many people with this type of thalassemia have no signs or symptoms.
    • Treatments for thalassemias depend on the type and severity of the disorder.

    What is alpha thalassemia?

    Alpha thalassemia is a blood disorder that reduces the production of normal hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body.

    What are the symptoms of alpha thalassemia?

    In people with the characteristic features of alpha thalassemia, a reduction in the amount of normal hemoglobin prevents enough oxygen from reaching the body's tissues. Affected individuals also have a shortage of red blood cells (anemia), which can cause pale skin, weakness, fatigue, and more serious complications.

    What are the types of alpha thalassemia?

    Two types of alpha thalassemia can cause health problems. The more severe type is known as hemoglobin Bart hydrops fetalis syndrome or Hb Bart syndrome. The milder form is called HbH disease.

    Hb Bart syndrome is characterized by hydrops fetalis, a condition in which excess fluid builds up in the body before birth. Additional signs and symptoms can include severe anemia, an enlarged liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly), heart defects, and abnormalities of the urinary system or genitalia. As a result of these serious health problems, most babies with this condition are stillborn or die soon after birth. Hb Bart syndrome can also cause serious complications for women during pregnancy, including dangerously high blood pressure with swelling (preeclampsia), premature delivery, and abnormal bleeding.

    HbH disease causes mild to moderate anemia, hepatosplenomegaly, and yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). Some affected individuals also have bone changes such as overgrowth of the upper jaw and an unusually prominent forehead. The features of HbH disease usually appear in early childhood, but affected individuals typically live into adulthood.

    How Common Is Alpha Thalassemia?

    Alpha thalassemia is a fairly common blood disorder worldwide. Thousands of infants with Hb Bart syndrome and HbH disease are born each year, particularly in Southeast Asia. Alpha thalassemia also occurs frequently in people from Mediterranean countries, North Africa, the Middle East, India, and Central Asia.

    What are the types of alpha thalassemia?

    Two types of alpha thalassemia can cause health problems. The more severe type is known as hemoglobin Bart hydrops fetalis syndrome or Hb Bart syndrome. The milder form is called HbH disease.

    Hb Bart syndrome is characterized by hydrops fetalis, a condition in which excess fluid builds up in the body before birth. Additional signs and symptoms can include severe anemia, an enlarged liver and spleen (hepatosplenomegaly), heart defects, and abnormalities of the urinary system or genitalia. As a result of these serious health problems, most babies with this condition are stillborn or die soon after birth. Hb Bart syndrome can also cause serious complications for women during pregnancy, including dangerously high blood pressure with swelling (preeclampsia), premature delivery, and abnormal bleeding.

    HbH disease causes mild to moderate anemia, hepatosplenomegaly, and yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice). Some affected individuals also have bone changes such as overgrowth of the upper jaw and an unusually prominent forehead. The features of HbH disease usually appear in early childhood, but affected individuals typically live into adulthood.

    How Common Is Alpha Thalassemia?

    Alpha thalassemia is a fairly common blood disorder worldwide. Thousands of infants with Hb Bart syndrome and HbH disease are born each year, particularly in Southeast Asia. Alpha thalassemia also occurs frequently in people from Mediterranean countries, North Africa, the Middle East, India, and Central Asia.

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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