Blood Transfusions/
Iron Chelation

There are currently two standard treatment options for Transfusion-dependent β‑thalassemia (TDT)a form of β-thalassemia that requires regular transfusions of red blood cells: regular blood transfusions and stem cell transplants.

How do Blood Transfusions Help?

People with TDT require regular blood transfusions to survive. Regular blood transfusions help with the symptoms of TDT (Anemiaa condition where there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body's tissues), but do not address the disease at a genetic level.

During a transfusion, blood from a donor containing healthy Red Blood Cellsa hemoglobin-containing cell that carries oxygen throughout your body  is delivered through an Intravenous (IV) Linea thin plastic tube that is inserted into the vein to deliver medication directly into the blood. The new blood is able to deliver the oxygen that the body needs.

After a blood transfusion, the level of healthy red blood cells in the body eventually becomes too low again and another transfusion is needed. Many people with TDT need a blood transfusion every two to five weeks to maintain a proper amount of red blood cells.

Iron Overload: Side Effects from Regular Blood Transfusions

Although blood transfusions are life saving for many people with TDT, there are also complications that can arise. Red blood cell transfusions with healthy red blood cells can contain a lot of iron—sometimes more than your body can get rid of on its own. Over time, the iron from transfusions can build up on top of the excess iron that you may have due to β‑thalassemia; this is called iron overload. Iron collects in organs like the heart and the liver. Iron overload makes it difficult for your body to work properly. If iron overload is not treated, it can lead to serious complications, including damage to your organs. 

Heart disease caused by iron overload was once the leading cause of death in people with thalassemia, and remains to be one of the most common complications.

How is Iron Overload Treated?

People with TDT often need regular monitoring of iron levels and must take special medications to remove the excess iron from their body. Iron overload can be treated with Chelation Therapymedicine that helps to reduce the amount of iron in your body

Chelation therapy involves administering a medicine called an iron chelator that binds to the iron in the blood and then works to remove it through urine and/or bowel movements. Chelation therapy can be administered a number of different ways, including: intravenous (IV), subcutaneous pump, or in oral form. It is important that you take your medication for chelation therapy as prescribed by your doctor so that your iron levels are managed appropriately.

“I love playing soccer with my friends after school, but some days, I just don’t have the energy. Maybe I can talk to my doctor about how I can be more active.”

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