Carrying Beta Thalassaemia
(Also know as having beta thalassaeia trait)
A blood test has shown that you carry beta thalassaemia.
Here is a brief explanation.
- 1 A carrier of beta thalassaemia is a healthy person.
- 2 Carrying beta thalassaemia will not weaken you physically or mentally.
- 3 You can eat what you want and do any kind of work you choose.
- 4 You do not need any medical treatment because you carry it.
What is beta thalassaemia?
Beta thalassaemia is one of a range of variations in the blood, that doctors call "haemoglobin disorders".
Haemoglobin is a component of the blood. It is red, and causes the blood to be red.
Haemoglobin is contained in red blood cells. Because you carry beta thalassaemia, you have smaller red blood cells and more of them than other people.
Carrying beta thalassaemia from one of your parents, and could pass it on to your children. This is why you are called a "carrier" of beta thalassaemia.
Beta thalassaemia is common among people who originate from Southern Europe, the Mediterranean area, the Middle East, India, and South East Asia. It also occurs among people originating from West Africa, and among African Caribbeans. It is found occasionally among North Europeans.
Can carrying beta thalassaemia cause you any health probems?
Some carriers may be mildly anaemic (have a lower haemoglobin than usual). Some carrier women become anaemic when they are pregnant. The anaemia does not have any bad affect on health or length of life. There is nothing you can do about it. You should have a diet with your doctor or practice nurse can arrange a simple blood test "for haemoglobin disorders" free of charge. The results of the blood test are completely confidential.
If I am a carrier, could I have a child with a sickle cell disorder or thalassaemia major?
This could only happen of your partner is also healthy carrier, or has a haemoglobin disorder. If you find you are a carrier, and you have a partner, it is important to ask him or her to have a test "for haemoglobin disorder" as well.
Dose my doctor recommend testing?
Yes, especially if you are thinking of having a baby, or there is already a pregnancy.
What about my family?
If you are carrier, it is important to tell any brothers and sisters you may have, and encourage them to have a test as well.
If you want to know more, ask your doctor.
Enough iron and vitamins, to avoid getting anaemic for any other reason.
A doctor who does not know you carry beta thalassaemia could think you are short of iron because you have small red cells, and could prescribe iron medicines. In the long run, this could do you more harm than good. Carriers of beta thalassaemia need a special blood test (serum iron or serum ferritin test) to diagnose iron deficiency. You should take iron medicines only if this test shows you are short of iron.
Why is it important to know you carry beta thalassaemia?
It could be important for the health of your children. Sometimes a carrier of beta thalassaemia has a child with a serious inherited anaemia. The risk is small, but it is important to know about it because you can avoid it.
A person who carries beta thalassaemia can only have a child with and inherited anaemia if their partner also carries a haemoglobin disorder.
What should you do if you are thinking of having children?
Tell your partner that you carry beta thalassaemia, and ask him or her to have a blood test "for haemoglobin disorders". Ideally your partner should have this test before you start a pregnancy. Their general practitioner (GP) can arrange it.
If your partner does not carry a haemoglobin disorder, there is no risk that your baby could have a serious inherited anaemia.
What should you do if your partner also carries a haemoglobin disorder?
Show this leaflet to your GP. Ask for an immediate appointment to discuss your situation with a local specialist counselor (see below for details). This is particularly important if you have already started a pregnancy. You can also contact the counseling service directly.
If there anything else you should do?
If you already have children, or you have brothers or sisters, they may also carry beta thalassaemia. Encourage them to ask their GP for a blood test "for haemoglobin disorders"
You can ask the counseling service for more information about carrying beta thalassaemia.