Blood Home > Beta Thalassemia

Beta thalassemia is type of inherited blood disorder that affects the production of hemoglobin in the body, which can cause anemia, fatigue, jaundice, and other symptoms. Worldwide, the condition is fairly common. However, in the United States, it is less common, affecting no more than 1,000 people. The disease is often treated with blood transfusions, iron chelation therapy, and bone marrow transplants.

What Is Beta Thalassemia?

Thalassemia is a type of inherited blood disorder that can cause anemia. It affects a person's ability to produce hemoglobin, which is the protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to all parts of the body. There are two main types of thalassemia: alpha thalassemia and beta thalassemia.
Hemoglobin is made up of two different protein chains: the alpha-globin chain and the beta-globin chain. Alpha thalassemia occurs when there is a problem with the alpha-globin chain, and beta thalassemia occurs when there is a problem with the beta-globin chain.

How Common Is It?

Worldwide, beta thalassemia is considered a fairly common blood disorder, affecting thousands of infants each year. The condition occurs most frequently in:
  • Mediterranean countries
  • North Africa
  • The Middle East
  • India
  • Southeast Asia.
In North America, beta thalassemia is less common, where an estimated 750 to 1,000 people have the condition.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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