The Importance of a Thalassemia Test

By Island Hospital   |   Feb 1, 2021 5:26:05 PM

Getting a Thalassemia test done is simple, quick and effective. It can prevent a lifetime of complications and financial burden simply because: you can prevent Thalassemia major by getting a Thalassemia test done.

Doctors diagnose Thalassemias using blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) and special hemoglobin tests. A CBC measures the amount of hemoglobin and the different kinds of blood cells, such as red blood cells, in a sample of blood.

Thalassemia is a hereditary disease that a person inherits from his or her parent(s). It reduces the production of red blood cells produced by your bone marrow, resulting in anemia.

(Anemia is a condition where your body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout your body)

Clinically, there are 3 types of anemia (low haemoglobin) that are produced by the Thalassemia disorder. They range from minor (mild) to intermediate and major.

The major form of Thalassemia is a life-long condition that is very debilitating. The affected person requires regular transfusion (every 2 to 3 weeks) that lasts for a lifetime. They will not be able to lead a fully functional life without transfusion, and he/she will experience all kinds of symptoms associated with very low blood / anemia.

The symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness or exertion
  • Poor effort tolerance
  • Heart failure (in severe cases)

After many years, the numerous transfusions given to a person with Thalassemia major will affect their organs; especially the liver, the heart, the endocrine system, the bones and their normal growth pattern as a child. Very often, the organs damaged by numerous transfusions is life threatening.

However, the happening of thalassemia major is an event that can be avoided through screening tests on healthy child-bearing adults.

Yes, that is the rationale behind getting a screening test. Thalassemia major happens when both parents of the affected person are carriers of the Thalassemia gene.

The screening of the Thalassemia genes can be performed through a blood test, simple and quick. This type of mass screening through blood tests has been proven to be an effective and efficient way to bring down on the incidence and occurrence of Thalassemia Major in many countries (such as Malta, Singapore, Hong Kong & Italy).

At first, you might think that only people with Thalassemia minor, intermediate or major can pass down the disease. That is not true. While you may not have the Thalassemia disease and you are a healthy person, you may still have the Thalassemia gene.

Having the gene means that you do not have the illness or disease, but it is possible that when you pass this gene down to your children; they may develop Thalassemia disease. If both you and your partner have this gene, then there is a chance that your child will develop Thalassemia major.

A simple blood test is effective enough to prevent a lifetime of health complications and financial burdens in the form of Thalassemia major.

All it takes is a visit to the lab.

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Dr. Saw Min Hong

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Dr. Cheah Soon Keat

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