The word 'Thalassemia' is derived from the Greek words, 'thalassa' meaning 'sea' and 'emia' meaning 'blood'. This is to infer that the disease is more prevalent in people living in the Mediterranean region.
Thalassemia is an autosomal genetic disorder (caused by mutation of recessive genes). This disorder is primarily characterized by prevalent anemia, attributed to the underproduction of globin proteins which are the integral components of the pigment of blood, hemoglobin.
Thalassemia is different from sickle cell anemia, another genetic disorder of blood. Sickle cell anemia is a defect in the quality of hemoglobin cells which have restricted capacity to transport nutrients and oxygen. On the contrary, thalassemia causes a reduction in the number of hemoglobin cells in the body, again hindering the functionality of the blood in transporting nutrients and oxygen.
Thalassemia can be categorized into the following types, based on the globin chains affected. The hemoglobin molecule is composed of two alpha chains and two beta chains.
Cooley's anemia; Mediterranean anemia; Beta thalassemia; Alpha thalassemia