What is the thalassemia trait?
If you have been diagnosed with the thalassemia trait, this is simply another way of saying that you carry the genetic trait for thalassemia.
A genetic trait is a kind of message or code contained in your body. You may pass this code on the your children, and they may pass it on to their children.
You may, for instance, carry the genetic trait for blue eyes, even if you yourself have brown eyes.
Thalassemia trait is not a disease or condition but a kind of genetic possibility that you pass on to your descendants.
The thalassemia trait is not a disease.
Medical personnel often tell people who carry the thalassemia trait that they “have thalassemia” which can lead trait carriers to believe that they have some kind of health-threatening medical condition. This is not true.
Medical terminology refers to the thalassemia trait as “thalassemia minor.” So while it may be technically correct to say that trait carriers “have thalassemia” (or, more properly, “thalassemia minor”), trait carriers should be aware that carrying the genetic trait for thalassemia is not the same thing as having a disease.
The thalassemia trait requires no medical treatment.
Physicians sometimes mistakenly prescribe iron supplements for thalassemia trait carriers, usually because they mistake the small size of the trait carrier's red blood cells with iron-deficiency anemia.
The only way to properly determine the need for iron supplements is to have a physician test iron levels in the patient's blood. Without a test of blood iron levels, iron supplements should not be prescribed for thalassemia trait carriers.
The thalassemia trait cannot become worse or turn into a serious disease
Because the thalassemia trait is a genetic trait and not a health condition, it cannot “become worse” or change into one of the more serious forms of thalassemia that may require medical treatment.
Similarly, except for extremely rare cases, the thalassemia trait has no symptoms and requires no treatment.
Why should I be concerned about the thalassemia trait?
Even though the thalassemia trait has no symptoms and cannot directly affect your health, it can indirectly affect your health and directly affect the health of your children. Doctors may mistake your thalassemia trait for a different condition and prescribe unnecessary and potentially harmful tests or treatments.
Also, when two thalassemia trait carriers have a child, there is a one-in-four chance with each pregnancy that the child will be born with a serious blood disorder.