Blood Home > Treatments for Thalassemia

Iron Chelation Therapy as Treatment for Thalassemia

Iron chelation therapy uses medicine to remove the excess iron that builds up in the body when a person has regular blood transfusions. If the iron is not removed, it will damage organs such as the heart and liver.
There are three main medications used for iron chelation therapy. They include:
  • Deferoxamine (Desferal®), which works best when given slowly under the skin, usually with a small portable pump overnight
  • Deferasirox (Exjade®), a tablet that is dissolved into water or juice (it cannot be swallowed whole)
  • Deferiprone (Ferriprox®), a tablet that is swallowed whole.
People who have iron overload should not take vitamins or other supplements that contain iron.

Surgical Thalassemia Treatments

Surgery may be needed if organs such as the spleen or gallbladder are affected. For example, if the spleen becomes inflamed and enlarged, it may need to be removed. If gallstones develop, the gallbladder may need to be removed.

Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplants

Bone marrow or stem cell transplants have been used successfully in some children with severe thalassemia. Although bone marrow transplants offer a cure for some children, it is a risky procedure and it may result in death.

Other Treatments for Thalassemia

People with severe thalassemia are more likely to get infections that can make their anemia worse. Therefore, people living with thalassemia should get an annual flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine to help prevent infections. In addition, taking folic acid supplements is important, as folic acid helps build red blood cells.
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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