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Does a thalassaemia patient need iron supplements?

Q: What should be the dietary intake for a thalassaemia minor patient to ensure a good level of haemoglobin in the body?

A:People with beta-thalassaemia trait (BTT) are not per se at greater risk of complications from iron in the diet than anyone else in the general population. In a rare instance, an individual with thalassaemia trait may also inherit the gene for hereditary haemochromatosis and then iron can accumulate to dangerous levels if dietary iron supplements are taken. In the absence of concomitant iron deficiency, iron supplementation will neither correct nor improve anaemia due to thalassaemia. Concomitant iron deficiency with BTT is quite common in our country. If the patient’s iron studies (serum ferritin, serum iron & TIBC) show concomitant iron deficiency, then iron supplement will help. The effect of iron deficiency in BTT is apparent as a significant lowering of the Hb concentration and an increased prevalence of anaemia. Iron therapy is warranted in such individuals as it helps to significantly raise their haemoglobin (Hb) concentration and lessen the severity of the anaemia. Once iron deficiency is corrected, the Hb will level off and no further improvement will occur. The individual should take a normal nutritious diet along with folic acid supplement twice a week.

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