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Diseases

Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Beta-thalassemia


Other Names for this Disease
  • Beta thalassemia major
  • Cooley's anemia
  • Beta thalassemia intermedia
  • Beta thalassemia minor
  • Erythroblastic anemia
Related Diseases
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

I've been told that I am a carrier for beta-thalassemia and I have low levels of hemoglobin. Can I donate blood?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

How is beta-thalassemia inherited?

Beta-thalassemia major and beta-thalassemia intermedia are usually inherited in an autosomal recessive manner, which means both copies of the HBB gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of a person with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene and are referred to as carriers. When two carriers have children, each child has a 25% (1 in 4) chance to be affected, a 50% (1 in 2) chance to be a carrier like each parent, and a 25% (1 in 4) chance to be unaffected and not be a carrier. Sometimes, people with only one HBB gene mutation in each cell (carriers) do have mild anemia. These people are said to have 'beta-thalassemia minor' or 'beta-thalassemia trait.'[1] 

In a small percentage of families, the condition is inherited in an autosomal dominant manner. In these cases, one mutated copy of the gene in each cell is enough to cause the signs and symptoms of beta-thalassemia.[1]
Last updated: 7/29/2015

Can an individual with beta-thalassemia minor donate blood?

When an individual chooses to donate blood, he/she is typically examined and asked specific questions about his/her medical history (to make sure that donating blood isn't unsafe for the individual donating or for the recipient). During this process, the individual's hematocrit value (or hemoglobin level) is tested to make sure that the individual does not have anemia and is not likely to become anemic after donation. In order to donate blood, an individual's hemoglobin level must be at a specific level, which is established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Usually, individuals with hemoglobin levels that are too low are temporarily not permitted to donate blood. A low hematocrit level is one of the most common reason people are temporarily disqualified or “deferred” from donating blood, but some donors can actually have anemia and still be eligible to donate.[2]

People who have beta-thalassemia minor and are interested in donating blood should speak with their healthcare provider.  Click here for more information about blood donation from the FDA.
Last updated: 12/5/2010

References
Other Names for this Disease
  • Beta thalassemia major
  • Cooley's anemia
  • Beta thalassemia intermedia
  • Beta thalassemia minor
  • Erythroblastic anemia
Related Diseases
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.