Thalassaemia is caused by inheriting a defective gene. There are two types of thalassaemia - alpha thalassaemia and beta thalassaemia (alpha thalassemia occurs most commonly in people from southeast Asia and China).
What is the
main cause of thalassemia?
Thalassaemia is a hereditary disorder characterised by defective production of haemoglobin, which leads to decreased production and increased destruction of red blood cells.
Who can be a
carrier of thalassemia?
Genes must be inherited from both parents to get thalassemia. If one gene is inherited, the person will be a carrier but will not have symptoms.
Red blood cells
White blood cells
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Platelets or clotting cells are the smallest type of blood cell. They are formed in the bone marrow and are important in blood clotting. When bleeding occurs, the platelets swell, clump together and form a sticky plug (a clot) which helps stop the bleeding.
MPV, or Mean Platelet Volume, is a measurement of the average size of your platelets. Platelets are fragmented cells within the blood that aid the process of clot formation. MPV provides an indication of platelet production in your bone marrow.
Haemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells which carries oxygen around the body and gives the blood its red colour. This test measures the amount of haemoglobin in the blood and is a good measure of the blood's ability to carry oxygen around the body.
HCT (haematocrit) measures the amount of space (volume) within the blood that is taken up by red blood cells.
Red cell count
Red Blood Cell (RBC) Count analyses the number of red blood cells in the blood. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, where it can be used to fuel energy processes such as movement and respiration. They also carry carbon dioxide produced from cells back to the lungs so that it can be exhaled.
MCV (mean corpuscular volume) reflects the average size of your red blood cells. This is important to measure, as it can indicate how much oxygen your cells are likely to be transporting around the body.
MCH (mean corpuscular haemoglobin) measures the average amount of haemoglobin contained in one of your red blood cells.
MCHC (mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration) is the average concentration of haemoglobin in your red blood cells. Haemoglobin is a molecule which allows red blood cells to transport oxygen around the body.
Red blood cell distribution width (RDW) indicates whether your red blood cells are all the same size, or different sizes or shapes. Normally cells are fairly uniform both in size and in shape, but some blood disorders may cause your red blood cells to form in abnormal sizes. This test measures the difference between the largest and the smallest red blood cell.
White cell count
White Blood Cell (WBC) Count measures the number of white blood cells in the blood. White blood cells are key to your body's immune system. They fight infections and protect your body from foreign invaders such as harmful germs and bacteria. Additionally, they produce many antibodies and memory cells to protect you from further infections with the same germ.
Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cell in the body and are responsible for helping your body fight infection. When a germ is initially detected by the body, neutrophils are the defence system which go out and attack the germ before any of your other white blood cells. When neutrophils are low you can be more vulnerable to illness and infection.
Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell which fight bacterial and viral infections. They are the subset of white blood cells involved in the more specific response to infections, which can identify and differentiate between different foreign organisms that enter the body. As well as fighting infection, they produce antibodies and memory cells to help to prevent future infections from the same germ. Lymphocytes include T cells, B cells and natural killer cells.
Monocytes are a type of white blood cell that surround and destroy germs and dead or damaged cells from the blood. The heat and swelling that you feel when a body part is inflamed, for example after a cut on your finger, is caused by the activities of these cells.
Eosinophils are a type of white blood cell that are responsible for removing parasitic infections and regulating inflammation to mark an infected site. They also play a role in allergy and in asthma.
Basophils are a type of white blood cell that protect your body from bacteria and parasites such as ticks. They also play a role in allergic reactions.
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