People are facing a hard time overcoming the rapid spread of corona virus in the country. Majority of the people have someone in their family who has been troubled by this COVID-19 pandemic. Sooner we hope it to end, it becomes more severe and restricts us all to our homes. We have come to know about many symptoms and side-effects of COVID-19 but nothing of it is enough it seems. Blood diseases are another threat which can increase the risk of patients suffering from corona virus. Today let us know about a blood disease called thalassemia and its increased risk with corona virus.
What Is Thalassemia?
Thalassemia is a blood disorder which is inherited in the person from his parents or from the family. This blood disorder is responsible for abnormal form of haemoglobin in the body. Haemoglobin is a protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen in the body. Thalassemia causes excessive self-destruction of red blood cells which further leads to condition like of anemia. The body does not have adequate amount of healthy red blood cells left in the body which can cause life-threatening consequences.
Since Thalassemia is a hereditary blood disorder chances are that it is created by genetic mutation or deletion of some fragments of genes. There are three types of thalassemia, one is minor and the other two Alpha and Beta thalassemia are a major threat to health of a person. Each one has different subtypes and hence the severity differs depending on the type of thalassemia person is suffering from.
Are Thalassemia Patients More Vulnerable To COVID-19?
Yes, it is true that thalassemia patients are at higher risk of having corona. Our expert Dr. Venkatesh Shridhar, Head of Haematology Department from BNK Hospital, Kochi explains the issue in detail. He says that thalassemia patients have a chronic condition which may be associated with several other disorders linked to it. These disorders can cause complication of transfusions including a heart failure, pulmonary hypertension and diabetes. These diseases cold be a risk factor of COVID-19 in patients.
Due to weak immune system there are increased chances of getting COVID infection and moderate to severe illness. It can be very difficult for the person suffering from thalassemia to recover from both the diseases at a particular time. If thalassemia is mild then treatment can be a way out but in terms of Alpha and Beta Thalassemia it becomes much more difficult.
Symptoms of Thalassemia
If you have thalassemia, then the symptoms will be evident for you to know that something is wrong in your body. Most of the symptoms show up in late childhood or adolescent period. Thalassemia symptoms might differ little bit for everyone as it depends on the severity of the disease, but some common symptoms include-
- Bone deformities
- Dark urine
- Delayed growth and development
- Excessive tiredness and fatigue
- Yellow or pale skin
Can Blood Transfusion Be Harmful During COVID-19 For Thalassemia Patients?
There is no such study or evidence which proves that corona virus can be a threat during the transfusion process. Blood transfusion is needed for the patients suffering from thalassemia to fulfil the need of red blood cells which are lost due to destruction algorithm. There have not been any cases yet which show that COVID-19 could be a threat in blood transfusion. However, the clinics and centres where infusion takes place should be well sanitized and provide safest environment for transfusion to avoid any complications or infection.
People are also screened for respiratory problems before taking blood and protective equipment is also provided for safe transfer of blood. Haematologists and experts should also follow guidelines for clear procedure and avoid shortages related to COVID-19.
Should Thalassemia Patients Continue Iron Chelating if They Get COVID?
If the process of iron chelating is going on for thalassemia patient, then there is no reason to interrupt it. There has been no relation that shows infection or complications regarding people going through iron chelating. If the patient becomes asymptomatic to corona virus then he should be shifted to an isolated ward for safety of other patients. Infact if the patient becomes infected with moderate to severe COVID-19 infection then iron chelating is advisable.
Patients suffering from thalassemia going through iron chelating process reduce the organ injury and risk of thalassemia complication.
Is Stem Cell Transplantation Safe During COVID-19?
There is high risk involved in the process of myeloabation in stem cell transplantation. Hospitals taking care of COVID patients or present in the COVID hotspots should avoid the process for the time being. Physicians can however go forward with other therapies involved in the process. However there is no evidence that SARS CoV-2 can be transmitted via hematopoietic stem cell grafts but in such a sensitive process, being careful is better option.
COVID-19 has increased difficulties for patients seeking treatment. Thalassemia which is a hereditary blood disorder can have factors leading to corona virus. The by-results of some severe complications of thalassemia are diabetes, pulmonary hypertension and heart failure which can make the person more vulnerable to COVID-infection. Also it reduces the ability of immune cells to make fresh cells which is very important for thalassemia patients. However some treatment procedures are still safe to be performed in this COVID pandemic. Consult an expert if you find any symptoms of this blood disorder.
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