Some people are "silent carriers" of thalassemia and do not have any symptoms. Other carriers (also known as thalassemia trait) have mild anemia, but they usually do not need treatment. However, carriers can pass the genes on to their children.
The symptoms will depend on the type and severity of the disease. Symptoms generally occur when oxygen does not get to various parts of the body due to low hemoglobin and a shortage of red blood cells in the blood (anemia).
(Click Symptoms of Thalassemia for more information. You can also click Symptoms of Beta Thalassemia for information about specific beta thalassemia symptoms.)
Doctors typically make a diagnosis after conducting blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) and special hemoglobin studies.
A CBC provides information about the amount of hemoglobin in the blood and the different kinds of blood cells in the blood. People with thalassemia have less hemoglobin than normal and fewer red blood cells than normal in their blood. Carriers of the trait may have slightly fewer red blood cells than normal in their blood.
Hemoglobin studies measure the types of hemoglobin in a blood sample.
(Click Thalassemia Diagnosis for more information.)