Dr Maryam Mustapha a graduate of Dow Medical College Karachi M.PHIL in Hematology from Sheikh Zayed Hospital Lahore. Presently Senior Lecturer at Lahore Medical College.
What is Thalassemia?
Ans: Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder. ( It means that parents pass the genes for the disorder onto their children.) Two genes one from each parent, are needed to make enough beta-globin protein chains if one or both genes are altered, It reduces the amount of hemoglobin in a human body, Leading to anemia.
What is anemia?
Ans: Anemia is deficiency or lesser count of red blood cells or too little hemoglobin in blood, which simply means a shortage of blood.
How is it diagnosed?
Ans: The pioneer test for Thalassemia detection is serum Electropheresis, and is also detected through various blood tests.
How is it treated?
Ans: Treatment has improved greatly in recent years.The disorder is treated with Blood transfusions, medicines and other procedures. To be precise these are not blood transfusions but transfusion of red blood cells. Blood transfusions are necessary to provide the patient with a temporary supply of healthy red blood cells with normal hemoglobin capable of carrying the oxygen that the patient’s body needs.
Most patients with a major form of thalassemia receive red blood cells transfusion every two to three weeks.
Do frequent blood transfusions have any side effects?
Ans: Due to repeated blood transfusions, iron gets accumulated in the body and affects certain organs, especially the liver heart and endocrine glands. There are drugs that help the drainage of iron out of the body. The medication used regularly is called Desferal. It keeps the amount of iron under safer levels.
What is the life expectancy of a Thelassimic?
Ans: The illness and its implications are changing almost day to day due to advanced treatment, with timely and correct treatment. The patients live longer and healthier now.
What sort of life can these patients lead?
Ans: Apart from a few cases, most thalasimic’s lead a normal life. They go to school, take part in Social activities and work.
What are other options for treating thalassemia other than blood transfusion?
Ans: Bone marrow transplant is the only definitive cure for thalassemia, But it has its risks. These risks depend mostly on the availability of a compatible Family donor, generally a sibling. It consists of replacing your child’s faulty bone Marrow stem cells from which red blood cells originate, with those obtained From a healthy compatible donor. Bone Marrow Transplant is not done In Pakistan hence it is a very costly treatment.
Where is Thalassemia treatment available in Pakistan?
Ans: Fatimid foundation is one of the major treatment centre for Thalassemia with branches all over Pakistan and provides quality treatment to patients. Jamila Sultana Foundation Rawalpindi also offers free treatment, and Kashif Iqbal Thalassemia center in Karachi are some names that provide free Thalassemia treatment in Pakistan.