I have a thalassemia trait

Welcome to the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation website!  This page will give you some information on thalassemia trait and will direct you to other trait-related information on our site.

People who have thalassemia trait (also called thalassemia minor) carry the genetic trait for thalassemia but do not usually experience any health problems except perhaps a mild anemia.  A person may have either alpha thalassemia trait or beta thalassemia trait, depending upon which form of beta protein is lacking.  (Click here to learn more about alpha thalassemia trait and here to learn more about beta thalassemia trait.)

If you have thalassemia trait, your physician may prescribe iron supplements because your red blood cells are smaller than is typical.  Unless you also have iron deficiency in addition to thalassemia, this is not needed and should be avoided.

Occasionally, a person with thalassemia may experience some physical ailments that s/he believes is related to thalassemia.  In such cases, physicians should look carefully for other causes of these ailments, as there are no significant health-related issues associated with thalassemia trait. Trying to address these issues by “treating” thalassemia trait may prevent the doctor from addressing whatever the actual underlying cause of the issues may be.

The most important reason for discovering if you carry the thalassemia trait is this: If two people who each carry the same form of thalassemia trait have a child, there is a 25% chance that this child will be born with a severe form of thalassemia.

Finding out if you carry thalassemia trait is not hard.  First, ask your physician to look at the MCV (Mean Corpuscular Volume) of your CBC (Complete Blood Count).  (You most likely already have a CBC on file; if not, ask to have one taken.)  If the MCV is 80 or less, and if you are NOT iron deficient, then you may have thalassemia trait.  Other blood tests, called a hemoglobin electrophoresis and a quantification of hemoglobin A2 and hemoglobin F, can then verify your trait status.

If you have any questions about thalassemia trait, please contact the Cooley’s Anemia Foundation at (800) 522-7222 or eileen.s@cooleysanemia.org.

Click here to download a booklet about thalassemia trait.

To download brochures in various languages about alpha thalassemia trait, click here.

To download brochures in various languages about beta thalassemia trait, click here.