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Symptoms of Thalassemia
  • People with thalassemia major may experience the following:
  • Paleness
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Jaundice
  • Spleen enlargement

    Diagnosis of Thalassemia

The diagnosis of thalassemia trait and thalassemia major is made from microscopic examination of the blood, which shows many small, pale red blood cells, and from other blood tests that show reduced levels of adult hemoglobin in the blood.

Treatment of ThalassemiaThalassemia trait
Normally, there are no treatments recommended. However, the doctor may suggest taking iron medication if they feel it is necessary.

Thalassemia major

The primary treatment is regular blood transfusions, usually every four weeks. In addition to the blood transfusions, doctors recommend injections of Desferal to help the body flush out the extra iron created by the new blood. The injections are given under the skin from a small pump 5 to 7 nights a week.
Additionally, splenectomy (removal of the spleen), bone marrow transplants and chelation therapy are being researched as possible treatments for thalassemia.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor About Thalassemia

How can having the thalassemia trait affect a person's life?Children's lives?

Do you recommend genetic counseling if a couple is planning on having children?

Is a thalassemia carrier more likely to get other diseases?

Is a thalassemia carrier physically or mentally weak?

Can thalassemia trait turn into thalassemia major?

[ Read More ]

Definition of Thalassemia

Thalassemia, also known as Mediterranean Anemia, Cooley's Anemia or Homozygous Beta Thalassemia, is a group of inherited disorders in which there is a fault in the production of hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying pigment found in red blood cells).

Description of Thalassemia

Blood is red because the red blood cells contain an oxygen-carrying substance called hemoglobin. The principal function of hemoglobin is to combine with and transport oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to all body tissues, where it is required to provide energy for the chemical reaction of all living cells.

Hemoglobin contains a large amount of iron. When red blood cells are broken down, most of the iron from the hemoglobin is used again to make new hemoglobin.

In the case of thalassemia the hemoglobin is fragile and breaks down sooner than normal, thus leaving the person with not enough hemoglobin in their body. This lack of hemoglobin causes anemia.

There are different types of anemia. The most common is iron-deficiency anemia. This happens when people do not have enough hemoglobin because they're not eating enough of the foods that contain iron (See Health Profile on Anemia).

Thalassemia is a different type of anemia. This happens when people do not have enough hemoglobin and is caused by the inheritance of a defective gene.

There are two forms of thalassemia:

Thalassemia trait

People with thalassemia trait carry thalassemia, but they are not ill. They are healthy and normal, however, some may have slight anemia.

People with thalassemia trait also have slightly more hemoglobin called hemoglobin A2 in their blood.

Thalassemia trait is present at birth, it remains the same for life, and it can be handed down from parents to children.

Thalassemia major
This a very serious blood disease that begins in early childhood.
Children with thalassemia major are normal at birth but become anemic between the age of three months and eighteen months. They become pale, do not sleep well, do not want to eat, and may vomit frequently after feedings.
If thalassemia major goes untreated, children usually die between one and eight years of age.
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Symptoms of hepatitis include:

  • yellowing of the skin and eyes, known as jaundice
  • fever
  • nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite
  • abdominal pain (on the upper right side)
  • light-colored bowel movements
  • dark-colored urine

The incubation period (how long it takes between the time a person becomes infected and symptoms first appear) for hepatitis varies depending on the type a person has. A person may not feel any different than before, or may notice these symptoms anywhere from 15 days to 4 months after getting the disease, depending on the type of hepatitis.

How Is Hepatitis Diagnosed and Treated?

A blood test is usually needed to determine if a person has hepatitis.
Doctors don't prescribe medications to treat hepatitis A; they usually recommend a person rest until any fever and jaundice are gone and the person's appetite has returned to normal. It is also important to stay well hydrated by drinking lots of fluids. Hepatitis B and C can sometimes be treated with medications, although some forms of medication used to treat hepatitis C are only approved for use in adults. Although treatments for hepatitis B and C are becoming more effective, a cure cannot be guaranteed.

Protecting Yourself

There are vaccines available to protect people against hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Today, all children in the United States are routinely vaccinated against hepatitis B at birth, and against hepatitis A between the ages of 1 and 2 years. People who are traveling to certain parts of the world where sanitation isn't very good also benefit from immunization against hepatitis A. Sometimes, if a person has been recently exposed to hepatitis A or B, a doctor may recommend a shot of immune globulin containing antibodies against the virus to try to prevent the person from coming down with the disease.

  • In addition to the vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, there are other steps for protecting yourself against hepatitis virus infection:
  • Avoid unprotected sexual intercourse. Not only does unprotected sex put you at risk for hepatitis B and C, but also for many other sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
  • Avoid intravenous drug use and sharing of drug paraphernalia. Hepatitis is only one of the life-threatening infections you can get by sharing contaminated needles.
  • Wash your hands before handling food and after using the bathroom. Washing your hands thoroughly is one of the simplest, most important ways to prevent the spread of any infection, including hepatitis.
  • If you are thinking about getting a tattoo or piercing, be sure the shop sterilizes needles properly. Poorly sterilized or nonsterile needles put people at risk for hepatitis B or C.
  • Don't share toothbrushes or razors. Hepatitis can be transmitted through sores or cuts.
  • Avoid eating raw shellfish (such as clams or oysters). You could put yourself at risk for hepatitis A if the shellfish was harvested from contaminated water.
  • Hepatitis infection can be serious, but knowing what puts you at risk can help protect you.
[ Read More ]

What Is Hepatitis?
The liver is one of the body's powerhouses. It helps process nutrients and metabolizes medication. The liver also helps clear the body of toxic waste products.
The word hepatitis (pronounced: heh-puh-tie-tus) means an inflammation of the liver, and it can be caused by one of many things - including a bacterial infection, liver injury caused by a toxin (poison), and even an attack on the liver by the body's own immune system.
Although there are several forms of hepatitis, the condition is usually caused by one of three viruses: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C virus. Some hepatitis viruses can mutate, which means they can change over time and can be difficult for the body to fight. In some cases, hepatitis B or C can destroy the liver. The patient then will need a liver transplant to survive, which is not always available or successful.

Hepatitis A

The hepatitis A virus is transmitted through the feces (poop) of infected individuals. People usually get hepatitis A by eating food or drinking water that's been contaminated with feces. Although that sounds disgusting, hepatitis A is actually considered to be less destructive than some other hepatitis viruses. That's because, unlike some other types, it rarely leads to permanent liver damage. Within a few weeks, the symptoms will have gone away on their own and the hepatitis A virus will no longer be in your system. Once a person has recovered from a hepatitis A infection, that person has immunity to the virus, meaning he or she will probably never get it again. People are also protected against hepatitis A if they've been vaccinated for it.

Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a more serious infection. It may lead to a condition called cirrhosis (permanent scarring of the liver) or liver cancer, both of which cause severe illness and even death. Hepatitis B is transmitted from person to person through blood or other body fluids.
In the United States, the most common way people get infected with hepatitis B is through unprotected sex with a person who has the disease. People who inject drugs (in other words, use a needle) also are at risk of becoming infected because it's likely that the needles they use will not have been sterilized. In fact, up to one in every 50 people living in the United States will become infected with the hepatitis B virus - and the risk of infection is greater among people who have unprotected sex or inject drugs.
That's scary stuff given that, as yet, there's no effective cure for hepatitis B. In most cases, a teen who gets hepatitis B will recover from the disease and may develop a natural immunity to future hepatitis B infections. But some people will have the condition forever. Medications can help some people with hepatitis B get rid of the virus.

Hepatitis C

Like hepatitis B, hepatitis C can lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer. Also like hepatitis B, hepatitis C is transmitted from person to person through blood or other body fluids.
Hepatitis C is the most serious type of hepatitis - it's now one of the most common reasons for liver transplants in adults. Every year, thousands of people in the United States die from the virus. And there's no cure and no vaccine.
An estimated 4.1 million Americans are currently infected with the virus. The most common way people become infected is through sharing drug paraphernalia such as needles and straws. People also get hepatitis C after having unprotected sex with an infected partner. Before 1990, many people got hepatitis C through blood transfusions, but better blood screening and handling procedures now mean that this rarely happens.
The medications currently used to treat hepatitis C are effective in controlling the disease in some people. However, hepatitis C treatments are not very easy to take, especially because some require frequent injections.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Hepatitis infection causes inflammation of the liver, which means that the liver becomes swollen and damaged and begins losing its ability to function. People with hepatitis often get symptoms similar to those caused by other virus infections, such as weakness, tiredness, and nausea. Because the symptoms of hepatitis are similar to other conditions, it's easy for a person who has it to confuse it with another illness. In addition, people with hepatitis A may not show any symptoms of the infection, so the infection can go undiagnosed. People with hepatitis B or C infection also may not show symptoms right away, but can develop health problems from the infection many years later. Even when infected people don't have any symptoms, they can still pass the disease on to others.
[ Read More ]

Defining Cancer

Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
Cancer is not just one disease but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer. Most cancers are named for the organ or type of cell in which they start - for example, cancer that begins in the colon is called colon cancer; cancer that begins in basal cells of the skin is called basal cell carcinoma.
Cancer types can be grouped into broader categories. The main categories of cancer include:
Carcinoma - cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs.
Sarcoma - cancer that begins in bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, or other connective or supportive tissue.
Leukemia - cancer that starts in blood-forming tissue such as the bone marrow and causes large numbers of abnormal blood cells to be produced and enter the blood.
Lymphoma and myeloma - cancers that begin in the cells of the immune system.
Central nervous system cancers - cancers that begin in the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
(For definitions of other cancer-related terms, see NCI's Dictionary of Cancer Terms.)

Origins of Cancer

All cancers begin in cells, the body's basic unit of life. To understand cancer, it's helpful to know what happens when normal cells become cancer cells.
The body is made up of many types of cells. These cells grow and divide in a controlled way to produce more cells as they are needed to keep the body healthy. When cells become old or damaged, they die and are replaced with new cells.
However, sometimes this orderly process goes wrong. The genetic material (DNA) of a cell can become damaged or changed, producing mutations that affect normal cell growth and division. When this happens, cells do not die when they should and new cells form when the body does not need them. The extra cells may form a mass of tissue called a tumor.

Not all tumors are cancerous; tumors can be benign or malignant.
Benign tumors aren't cancerous. They can often be removed, and, in most cases, they do not come back. Cells in benign tumors do not spread to other parts of the body.
Malignant tumors are cancerous. Cells in these tumors can invade nearby tissues and spread to other parts of the body. The spread of cancer from one part of the body to another is called metastasis.
Some cancers do not form tumors. For example, leukemia is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood.
Cancer Statistics
A new report from the nation's leading cancer organizations shows cancer death rates decreased on average 2.1 percent per year from 2002 through 2004, nearly twice the annual decrease of 1.1 percent per year from 1993 through 2002.
[ Read More ]