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World Thalassemia Day 2017:Where do we stand?

May 8th is observed as World Thalassemia day every year. It is observed every year to make people aware and educate about the disease.
Celebrating World Thalassemia Day on 8th of May was established by the World Health Organization in order to raise the public awareness about this disease, prevention measures and measures to avoid its transmission.
Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorders characterized by abnormal haemoglobin production. The abnormality results in improper oxygen transport and destruction of red blood cells. The disease has no cure and people living with thalassemia require regular blood transfusions as an effective measure to prolong life.
One’s chances of inheriting a serious form of the disease is high if both of your parents are carriers of thalassemia. It is the most common genetic disorder that gets transferred to children from parents through genes.
India, considered to be the capital of thalassaemia, sees some 10,000 children born with the condition every year. However, the disease is still overlooked when we talk about the burden of the disease in the country. Of these, 50 percent die before the age of 20 due to poverty and lack of treatment. Reportedly, about four million Indians are thalassemia carriers and over 1, 00,000 patients.
Furthermore, a study conducted by Metropolis Healthcare – a global chain of pathology labs and diagnostic centres – was found that one in every two women in India is anemic.
Unfortunately, there is no prevention and control programme at the national level.
Signs and symptoms of thalassemia depend on the type and can vary from none to severe. Some of the most common symptoms include:
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Bone deformities, especially in the face
  • Pale appearance or yellow skin
  • Slow growth rates
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Iron overload
  • Heart problems
Signs of thalassemia also tend to develop later in childhood or adolescence.
The treatment for thalassemia depends on the type and severity of the disorder involved. For instance, treatment for those with more severe form of the disease includes –
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bone marrow transplant
  • Medications and supplements – iron chelation (removal of excess iron from the body with special drugs)
  • Possible surgery to remove the spleen or gallbladder
Thalassemia is most common in African, Mediterranean and Asian countries. Both males and females have similar rates of the disorder.
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