Facebook Pixel

Thalassemia Definition & Overview


Thalassemia is an inherited disorder. It leads to the decreased production and increased destruction of red blood cells. Hemoglobin in the red blood cells carry oxygen for all organs in the body. The loss of red blood cells results in low hemoglobin. This leads to anemia . The decreased oxygen will impair the ability to maintain normal functions.


© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.

Hemoglobin is made of two separate amino acid chains. They are alpha and beta. Thalassemias are categorized by the specific chain and number of genes affected:

Alpha thalassemia—the alpha chain is affected

  • Silent carrier—one gene affected
  • Thalassemia trait—two genes affected
  • Hemoglobin H disease—three genes affected
  • Alpha hydrops fetalis—four genes affected, most severe form, results in fetal or newborn death

Beta thalassemia—the beta chain is affected

  • Thalassemia minor—one abnormal gene
  • Thalassemia major (Cooley's anemia)—two abnormal genes

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2022 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

The Latest in Thalassemia Definition & Overview

ASK Your Health Question

It's FREE and you'll get a response within 24 hours


POST Info, Tips & Stories

Inspire others to learn from your experiences. Tell your story!

Get Email Updates

Thalassemia Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!