Despite everything already studied and known as to thalassemia today, some people with thalassemia and relatives still have many doubts. Check below what is myth and what needs to be clarified forever.
Thalassemia is contagious
MYTHIt is an inherited anemia, caused by a genetic defect inherited from one of the parents or from both. Therefore, it is not contagious, as the diseases transmitted by virus and bacteria, for example.
The anemia of the thalassemic person, since it is chronic, may become a leukemia
MYTHMany people are used to believe it and associate both diseases equivocally, because anemia is one of the symptoms of leukemia (a cancer in the blood). But whatever is the cause of the anemic status this is not what causes leukemia.
To help contain the excess iron, watch out what you eat
MYTHThe person with thalassemia doesn't need a special diet and nothing replaces the chelating agents as regards the struggle to prevent the iron from accumulating in the organism. Care with the food will not make the difference at the time of assessing the levels of this mineral in the blood. However, the recommendation is avoiding – and not radically cutting from the meals – iron-enriched food, such as red meat, and, on the other hand, betting in those which inhibit absorption of the iron by the intestine, such as the case of the milk and the black tea. It is also important to add in the meals fruits and vegetables.
Is it true that thrushes in the mouth are a sign that there is overload of iron in the organism?
MYTHThe signs of excess iron are usually the darkening of the skin, diabetes, tiredness by heart commitment. Only specific exams, such as the one which assesses the ferritin levels and the magnetic nuclear resonance with T2*, are capable of confirming the suspicion.
People with thalassemia have more appetite than usual
MYTHThe increase of the appetite may occur only as a side effect of people that make chelation treatment with deferiprone (the Ferriprox).
People with thalassemia may practice physical activities
TRUEIf the person with thalassemia makes transfusions on a regular basis, he/she keeps healthy levels of hemoglobin and, with the ideal chelation the person puts away the risks of iron overload in the heart, he/she may exercise, with no concerns (Osteoporosis may limit some type of activity). The only restriction occurs in case people with the increased spleen that should avoid activities that facilitate traumas in the abdominal region and, with that, a possible rupture of the organ.
Trips are allowed, but the care should be doubled in high altitude places, greater than 3300 meters
The person with thalassemia may transfer his/her treatment to a reference center closer from where he/she will stay and travel with no concerns. The ideal is calling to the place and previously informing with the physicians responsible for the local service. (check the options in the link Treatment Centers). In high altitudes, however, if the hemoglobin levels are too low, the person with thalassemia may feel more tiredness and breathlessness. It occurs because in these places the air is rarefied – that is, it has less oxygen than in lower altitudes. Since thalassemia is characterized by the absence of hemoglobin – and, consequently, the difficulty that this malformed protein has to survive and make oxygen available to the cells –, such decrease inside and outside the organism may cause illness.
The vaccines against flew, including the H1N1 should be avoided
MYTHAs a good part of the population, people with thalassemia may and should be vaccinated, especially as regards the diseases caused by the blood, such as hepatitis B – which protects the person from a possible exposure to the virus during a transfusion.
People with thalassemia have more chance to contract the dengue
MYTHThe risks are equal to those of any person exposed to an environment with the presence of the disease-transmitter mosquito. On the other hand, thalassemia and its complications may leave people more disposed to develop cardiopathies, diabetes, osteoporosis, thrombosis, pulmonary hypertension, among others.
With the transfusion, there may be a change to the DNA of the person receiving the blood
MYTHThe DNA, called life molecule, is present inside each one of the 100 trillion cells of the human being and carries all genetic information that give rise to a person – including from his/her physical appearance up to his/her disposal to diseases. Each human being has his/her DNA (because of that, the DNA tests are used to acknowledged the paternity, for example) which is only changed upon its manipulation, a possibility proposed by the genic therapy, an intervention that revolutionized the medicine, but is still under studies.
Yellowish eye and skin may be a symptom of non-compatible blood
TRUE(The disease itself may contribute to jaundice). This reaction is caused in most part of the cases by hemolysis, the destruction of the red blood cells and consequently release of bilirubin (yellow-colored substance) in the blood. Therefore, the more the person receives an incompatible blood, the greater the chance of hemolysis, the worse the transfusion yield and the greater the risk of jaundice. Another condition that may lead to such change to appearance is presence of the Gilbert's syndrome – which has a greater incidence between people with thalassemia. This disease causes exaggerated production (inappropriate metabolism) of bilirubin, which is impregnated to the organism, affects the conjunctive and results in yellowish eye and skin. In order to mitigate the yellow color, one should sunbathe and avoid alcoholic drinks, because the alcohol overloads the metabolic system of the liver and, with it, increases production of bilirubin.
Woman with thalassemia cannot have children
Initially, it is crucial to be sure that the woman with thalassemia has no complications inherent to the base disease (Thalassemia).
The hematologist physician only needs to closely follow up the work of the obstetrician to guide in some cases, for example on the fact that thalassemia increases the risk of thrombosis (a problem that deserves attention in every pregnancy, because the hormonal changes in this phase, even in healthy pregnant women, favor appearance of thrombus (clogs) that block the bloodstream). The chelating therapy should also be interrupted at least in the first three months, which avoids any consequences to the fetus, and the hemoglobin levels should be monitored.