Contributed by- Dr. Snehal Singh
India, unfortunately carries a huge burden of population affected with thalassemia. Due to the widespread poverty and lack of proper facilities almost 50% of the kids born with thalassemia do not make it upto 20 years of age.
Thalassemia is a genetic disorder which makes it impossible to prevent and eventually leads to anaemia. The impact of this disorder can range between mild, severe to life threatening. For a thalassemic person to survive regular blood transfusions is an absolute necessity.
But can a person with thalassemia donate blood? Although, unbelievable the answer is YES, thalassemia minor people are eligible to donate blood. Thalassemia minor people are less prone to the severe complications and do not require regular blood transfusions.
Let us try to understand this widespread disorder and how can we do our bit to help out.
What Is Thalassemia?
Thalassemia is a blood disorder which causes destruction of red blood cells and eventually leads to results in low haemoglobin and anaemia. It is a genetic condition which can be inherited from one or both parents. Based on the proteins that the blood lacks thalassemia is mainly of two types:
- Alpha thalassemia
- Beta thalassemia
In people suffering from thalassemia major both the genes are mutated (can be inherited from both parents). However, in thalassemia minor only one gene is mutated (inherited from only one parent), which makes the person a thalassemia carrier. Thalassemia major is more serious with severe anaemia, while thalassemia minor (carrier) is mild.
A low-fat, plant-based diet is the best choice for a thalassemia patient, also limiting the intake of iron-rich foods like fish and meat is a must. Fortified cereals, breads, and juices are a strict no as they have high iron content. Always make sure to discuss about any dietary changes with your doctor. Proper medical care, diet and exercise are some ways to deal with this severe problem.
Can A Person With Thalassemia Donate Blood?
Is it safe for a person suffering from thalassemia to donate blood? Let us try to find and understand the answer to this question.
Moderate and severe forms of thalassemia is accompanied with anaemia, spleen enlargement, bone deformities and other health issues. It is important for a thalassemic person to receive regular blood transfusions and iron supplements to improve the quality of life and ensure survival. Thus, it can be said that due to the severity of thalassemia major and low haemoglobin levels it is not safe to donate.
In milder or minor form of thalassemia, the symptoms are either very mild anemia or not visible at all. Mild anaemia in thalassemia minor with normal haemoglobin levels makes him eligible to donate blood. Any person willing to donate blood must meet the specified criteria and have the required haemoglobin level. The medical history is taken into account and tests are carried to make sure that the person does not have anaemia. Persons with thalassemia minor (thalassemia carriers or thalassemia trait) can donate blood, if they meet the required criterias.
The blood tests done before blood transfusion are necessary to protect the health of both the donor and the recipient. Persons with certain infections or medical ailments, those on certain medications are not allowed to donate. Also, it is important to have normal temperature, blood pressure and haemoglobin levels, in addition to the specified criteria for blood donation.
How To Know If A Person Is Thalassemia Minor?
With appropriate investigations, thalassemia, its type and severity can be diagnosed. Routine blood tests can detect anaemia but more specialised tests help to diagnose thalassemia. Genetic counselling of families with thalassemia, helps in identifying the risk of passing the defect to their children. Pregnant women can undergo prenatal testing to evaluate the chances of thalassemia in the baby.
People with thalassemia minor can still have thalassemia major children. If both parents are thalassemia carriers, their genes can be passed on and the child born can have thalassemia major. If one parent has the gene, there is a risk of having thalassemia minor child. Hence, accurate diagnosis is important to take the right action.
Thus, it is important to spread awareness about this condition. Proper counselling and blood donation are few steps that will help us in dealing with the monstrous thalassemia.