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"I have beta-thalassemia. Is it true that it is to no benefit to taking iron pills?"

ZocdocAnswersI have beta-thalassemia. Is it true that it is to no benefit to taking iron pills?


I have beta-thalassemia. In my blood work it always shows an iron deficiency. I wanted to know if there will be any improvement if I take iron pills or will I only be damaging my organs with the iron since there will possibly be no improvement. I currently am not taking any medications, do you recommend I try iron pills?


The treatment of beta thalassemia varies from person to person and depends in large part on the specific type of thalassemia diagnosed. Patient that have beta thalassemia major are severely limited in their ability to produce stable red blood cells and are dependent for life on receiving periodic blood transfusions. These patients are at risk for iron overload due to the number of transfusions that are required to support them, and often require medications to reduce the amount of iron circulating in their bodies. Beta thalassemia minor (also referred to as trait) does not usually require any specific treatment. Pregnant women may require transfusions as they become anemic even without the thalassemia trait. This condition is often confused with iron deficiency anemia as the red blood cells can look very similar in both cases. Patients with the trait are susceptible to becoming iron-deficient in the same ways as members of the general population without the trait (such as heavy menstrual bleeding, poor dietary iron intake, or chronic gastrointestinal blood loss). If they are truly diagnosed as iron-deficient based on lab work, then treatment with iron supplementation would be indicated just as for other patients.

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