Some problems in our life can never be solved. We cannot stop being old or prevent death. We can never return to our childhood or rewind our lives to correct past mistakes. Some problems have solutions that need collective approach; like road traffic accidents, radicalisation of youth and global warming. Comprehensive and coordinated collective approach seems impossible in this cruel world sometimes, but one of the gravest problems can still be prevented just by the awareness and action of single individuals.

I am talking about thalassaemia.

It is a genetic disease that is hereditary by nature. It remains in our body in two forms. One is a carrier form another is a sufferer form.

The sufferer may need lifelong regular blood transfusions starting from six months of age. Jaundice, changes of bony shape, swelling of belly due to enlargement of internal organs, and growth retardation are other problems related to sufferers of thalassaemia. In the long run, the sufferer may get heart failure, diabetes, thyroid problems, liver problems etc. It is incurable without stem cell transplantation, which is very costly and not 100 percent successful. The economic burden and loss of working days by the sufferer and his or her family should also be counted.

On the other hand, the carrier of the disease has no external signs at all.  The carrier can be a male or female of any age, race, ethnicity, colour, profession, education or religious status. Just at present the person you are talking to or passing by you can be a carrier.

In medical science, the carrier is never considered to have a disease. And so also the carrier himself does never feel to go to a specialist regarding thalassaemia. But the gene remains hidden silently in his body absolutely doing no harm.

Now comes the most important message.

As the male carrier does not have any problem and so is the female carrier; with the passage of time these two carriers can get married to each other. And a carrier without any problem getting married to another carrier with fewer problems may lead to the birth of a sufferer of thalassaemia with all those aforesaid problems. Unfortunately, every child of carrier parents can be a sufferer of thalassaemia. The carrier parents have no clue that they are carriers but continuously ask the doctors that why their loving innocent heavenly child has become a sufferer.

Prevention of thalassaemia is very easy.

How? Very simple. A person can undergo some blood tests before marriage and know whether he or she is a carrier or not. If they are not carriers, there is no chance for their child to be a sufferer of thalassaemia. But if they are found to be carriers, they must inform their spouses-to-be, who in turns should check their thalassaemia status as well. If the spouse has normal report, it’s is a yes for the marriage. But if the spouse is also a thalassaemia carrier, then the marriage must be stopped. Besides the problems, the future of having sufferer children even after knowing that you are carriers will be socially ironical.

A marriage between a thalassaemia carrier and a non-carrier is considered absolutely safe in medical point of view.

In our society, it’s really problematic to convert good thoughts into actions. But someone has to start it somewhere. Countries like Cyprus have nearly eradicated thalassaemia just by these premarital tests. But in Bangladesh, the carriers are ignorant about their thalassaemia status; they have high chance of marrying another carrier and bring a child with a lifelong disease when simple tests before the marriage can prevent their future generations from this disease.

So, please let’s talk about thalassaemia, know about thalassaemia and go to a specialist to check for thalassaemia and save yourself, your future generations and ultimately the country and world from thalassaemia.

Jamal Uddin Taninis a doctor working at National Hospital in Chattogram as a consultant of haematology.

One Response to “Thalassaemia: The silent killer, and the prevention”

  1. yousuf

    A wonderful article Mr. Jamal. I once donated blood for a charity organization working for thalassaemia but back then i was not aware of its severity. We should be cautious for our own good.
    Please do write more articles like this in future.


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