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Have you been screened for thalassemia?

By: Dr. Ma. Liza Naranjo

Philippine Daily Inquirer
11:29 PM November 29th, 2013
Maputla ka. Mukhang kulang ka sa iron, often said in one breath which makes you think
that pallor (maputla) or anemia (low red blood cells) is synonymous to iron deficiency. On
the contrary, not all cases of anemia is secondary to lack of iron but may be inherited.
Thalassemia is a hereditary form of anemia presenting as pallor and often mistaken as iron
deficiency anemia (nutritional anemia). Being an inherited red blood cell disorder,
thalassemia is passed on from one generation to the next, from parents to their children.
In its most severe form (Thalassemia Major), patients have stunted growth, large spleens and
bone deformities. Thalassemia Major patients are often diagnosed before their first birthday
due to the development of anemia that is unresponsive to iron treatment. These patients are
often born to unsuspecting, symptomless parents who are thalassemia carriers themselves.
Patients with Thalassemia Major would require regular, monthly red blood cell transfusion in
order to survive. They likewise develop iron overload, a condition in which there is
accumulation of toxic iron in the body brought about by the regular blood transfusion coupled
with an enhanced ability to absorb iron in the gut.
This excessive body iron is lethal, damaging the heart, liver and endocrine system, often
leading to heart and liver failure as well as complications of diabetes. To remove the deadly
iron in the body, thalassemia patients need daily iron chelation treatment by slow
subcutaneous (under the skin) infusion of Desferrioxamine or by the oral route using
Desferasirox or Deferiprone.
Thalassemia screening starts with a simple blood count (CBC). Additional tests include
hemoglobin electrophoresis found in some Metro Manila hospitals and the High Performance
Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) for thalassemia, presently only being offered by the
Philippine Thalassemia Study Group, National Institute of Health, Institute of Human
Genetics, University of the Philippines, Manila.
Due to the lack of awareness and support for thalassemia, there is a pressing need for
thalassemia families to have a supportive community that can provide a united voice for
thalassemia patients in the country. Balikatang Thalassemia (Ba-Tha) was founded in 1993
by Doctors Alendry P. Caviles Jr. and Ernesto dJ Yuson together with the families of
thalassemia patients to address these concerns. Ba-Tha through its volunteers and partners
like the Thalassemia Center of the Philippines, the Philippine Society of Hematology and
Blood Transfusion under the leadership of Dr. Angelina Mirasol, the Galloners Club headed
by Col. Joel Torregoza and the Philippine Alliance of Patients Organizations led by Mrs.
Fatima Lorenzo, are one in promoting thalassemia awareness and in organizing patient
activities with the goal of improving the quality of care of thalassemia patients in the

So the next time someone calls your attention because you look pale or you notice that the
hemoglobin count in your CBC is lower than normal, instead of automatically popping an
iron supplement, do yourself and your family a favor by having yourself screened for
Dr. Ma. Liza Naranjo is a pediatric hematologist and the secretary of Balikatang Thalassemia.
The ONCOURAGE Health Information Advocacy promotes public awareness and continuing
medical education on the prevention, detection and management of cancer and blood
disorders. It is a collaboration between the Philippine Society of Medical Oncology,
Philippine Society of Hematology and Blood Transfusion, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes
Office, Philippine Foundation for Breast Care-Kasuso, Touched by Max Philippines,
Balikatang Thalassemia and Novartis Oncology Philippines.
Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/154485/have-you-been-screened-forthalassemia#ixzz4J6W7qe6S
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Anemic and Alpha Thalassemia


Batang may sakit na "Beta Thalassemia," tinulungan ng GMA Kapuso Foundation na



Thalassemia - Do you have this blood disorder?


What Actually Can Be Causing Your Low Hemoglobin Level?


Beta Thalassemia, Major, Intermedia and Minor


Thalassemia Diagnosis
A Complete Blood Count test (CBC)
Hemoglobin electrophoresis by HPLC method to estimate Hb A2 levels.

-Persons with thalassemia minor have (at most) mild anemia (slight lowering of the
hemoglobin level in the blood). This situation can very closely resemble that with mild irondeficiency anemia. However, persons with thalassemia minor have a normal blood iron level
(unless they are iron deficient for other reasons). No treatment is necessary for thalassemia
minor. In particular, iron is neither necessary nor advised.


Brendalyn Gapuz Derraco VIernes Elson Bugarin Dumayag , sir wla po

bawal kainin actually base sa observation ko sa mga anak ko kaso may
mga pagkain lng na hindi dapat masobrahan kainin gaya ng malunggay
ampalaya or mga pagkain na rich in iron, dahil base po sa paliwanag ng
doctor ng mga anak ko , kontra po mga ito sa thalassemia... Pero pwde din
po kumain but in small amount lng at hindi po palagi... Share ko lng po!
Brendalyn Gapuz Derraco VIernes Ganun din po panganay ko sir
hanggang 9 lng hemoglobin nia hindi na tumataas po doon , pag bumaba
po sa 7 hemog nia agad agad po transfusion ulit bale 4 times na din po
siya nalagyan dugo, kaya para iwas binantayan ko na lng po diet nia

The type of treatment a person receives depends on how severe the thalassemia is. The more
severe the thalassemia, the less hemoglobin the body has, and the more severe the anemia may
One way to treat anemia is to provide the body with more red blood cells to carry oxygen. This
can be done through a blood transfusion, a safe, common procedure in which you receive blood

through a small plastic tube inserted into one of your blood vessels. Some people with
thalassemia usually with thalassemia major need regular blood transfusions because their
body makes such low amounts of hemoglobin. People with thalassemia intermedia (not as
severe as major, but not as mild as trait) may need blood transfusions sometimes, such as when
they have an infection or an illness. People with thalassemia minor or trait usually do not need
blood transfusions because they either do not have anemia or have only a mild anemia.
Many times people with thalassemia are prescribed a supplemental B vitamin, known as folic
acid, to help treat anemia. Folic acid can help red blood cells develop. Treatment with folic acid is
usually done in addition to other therapies.