Thalassemia | Complications

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What are the complications of thalassemia?

Thalassemia can lead to other health problems:

  • An enlarged spleen. Your spleen helps your body fight infections and filters out damaged blood cells. If you have thalassemia, your spleen may have to work harder than normal, which can cause it to enlarge. If your spleen becomes too large, it may have to be removed.
  • Infections. People who have thalassemia are more likely to get blood infections, especially if they have a lot of blood transfusions. Infections can also be worse if you’ve had your spleen removed.
  • Bone problems. Thalassemia can cause bone deformities in the face and skull. People who have thalassemia may also have severe osteoporosis (brittle bones).
  • Too much iron in your blood. This can cause damage to the heart, liver or endocrine system.

What should I do if I’m a carrier of thalassemia and I want to get pregnant?

Some severe types of thalassemia can cause babies to die before they are born or soon after. If you or your partner knows you are a carrier for thalassemia, you may want to talk to your doctor or a genetic counselor before getting pregnant. Certain tests may be able to show which type of thalassemia you are carrying. Once you are pregnant, prenatal testing can show whether or not your baby has thalassemia.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 02/11
Created: 11/09

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