Ever donated blood and got a bruise?


Although we hope that no one will have any ill effects from giving blood, occasionally bruising of the arm and some arm pain may develop.

See previous post.

Although we hope that no donor will have any ill effects from giving blood, occasionally bruising of the arm may develop. The bruise can look very dramatic and some
people may find this worrying, especially if it is not visible until the next day. Bruising can look very nasty, but it is usually harmless and will disperse with time.

What is bruising?
Bruising is caused by bleeding under the skin. The blood usually collects in the area as a bruise although gravity may cause the bruise to appear away from the donation site. With time the familiar blue-black discolouration changes to green, then yellow and eventually fades and disappears. This may take up to three weeks or more if the bruise is large and swollen.

Why can it happen with blood donation?
When the needle is taken out of the arm bleeding will continue until the small hole in the vein closes up. The way to prevent this is to apply pressure to the arm, over the site where the needle was inserted, until all signs of bleeding have stopped. Failure to maintain this pressure is the most common cause of bruising.

If a bruise occurs during blood donation, the process may be discontinued to prevent it from worsening. With time, the familiar blue-black discolouration changes to green, then yellow and eventually fades and disappears. This may take two to three weeks if the bruise is large. It is normal for bruises to spread out before fading.

During or after blood donation, the following may happen:

  • The vein is pierced during blood donation, causing some blood to leak into the surrounding tissue. The donor is more likely to develop a bruise if the venepuncture procedure was more difficult than usual.
  • There are tiny fragile blood vessels running just under the skin, as well as the larger veins from which the blood donation is obtained. When the donation needle is inserted into the arm, one of these small vessels may be injured and bleeding occurs.
  • Inadequate pressure placed on the venepuncture site after removal of the needle may allow blood to leak in the surrounding tissues.
  • Lifting heavy objects after blood donation could put pressure on the venepuncture site and dislodge the clot formed.

Prevention and management of bruising following blood donation

  • Wear clothes with loose fitting sleeves when donating blood. A tight sleeve can act as a tourniquet and cause congestion in the vein, increasing the chance of bruising.
  • Apply firm pressure to the venepuncture site after donation, as advised by the Blood Bank staff member, until the bleeding has stopped. A plaster will be applied to cover the venepuncture site; this should be kept on for a minimum of six hours.
  • Avoid lifting heavy objects for a few days as this could aggravate the bruising. However, gentle movements are recommended whilst the bruise is healing.
  • If bruising has developed, applying cold compresses to the area can also help to relieve any pain or discomfort.
  • If you require more pain relief, it is recommended to take paracetamol (according to the manufacturer’s instructions); avoid taking aspirin or ibuprofen for the first 24 hours.
  • If you experience any of the following, seek further help or call National Blood Transfusion Service (Blood Bank) on 427 7192 for advice:
    — Severe pain
    — Numbness or persistent ”pins and needles” in the arm, hand or fingers
    — Swelling which is large or increasing in size
    — Painful redness and inflammation.


    Treat your bruise with R.I.C.E

    Rest – allow time for the arm to heal, avoid heavy lifting, e.g. at the gym or carrying heavy shopping. Light gentle movement is recommended. After 36 hours, return to normal activity.

    Ice – This is most effective immediately for swelling of the bruise and surrounding area. Do not place directly onto the skin; use a cloth to act as a barrier to prevent freezeburns, e.g. pack of frozen vegetables or an ice pack.

    Compression – pressing on the point where the needle was inserted.

    Elevation – If possible, when resting elevate your arm on a pillow.

    Treatment for the bruise is most effective whilst the bruise is still reddish, however after 36 hours – heat in the form of a warm cloth to be applied to the bruise for approximately 10 minutes, 2-3 times a day may increase blood flow to the bruised area allowing the skin to reabsorb the bruise more quickly – ultimately the bruise will fade in colour.

    Resources: 1. WHO – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK310575/
                          2. Blood Bank UK – https://www.blood.co.uk/the-donation-process/further-information/bruising-and-arm-pain/

Afraid of needles: This is why you should donate blood ?

Be it in Mauritius or abroad, most people when asked to donate blood, their main excuses are:

  • They have no time, they are busy or they are afraid of needles, while,
  • there are others who feel squeamish just at the very sight of blood

Afraid of needles: These are psychological fears where people are so afraid of medical needles that they can even avoid receiving medical care. They experience a rise in their blood pressure and heart rate in the hours and days leading up to the procedure. However, at the time of the event like after donating blood, their blood pressure may rapidly drop and enter into vasovegal reactions like fainting.

This fear of needles is called Trypanophobia (the fear of needles) is a very real phobia. However, for many people, receiving a blood donation is the difference between living and dying.

” Scientists are still unsure precisely what causes needle phobia. It seems to be inherited, as an estimated 80 percent of those who have the condition have a close relative that suffers from the same phobia. However, it’s possible that the fear is learned rather than biologically inherited.

Some evolutionary psychologists believe that the fear may be rooted in an ancient survival technique. Puncture wounds could be deadly, particularly in the days before modern antibiotics. It’s possible that a fear of puncturing the skin was an evolutionary adaptation.” Source: verywellmind.com)

Addressing the fears
Experts, however, believe fears can be addressed with proper explanation.

Dr Gandhi of Mayo Clinic says that: ” those afraid of needles to put their fear to rest by visiting a blood donation center to see the needles being used.

Fear of fainting: Donor centers take steps to prevent fainting. Few people faint, and research has shown that just because it happens once, that doesn’t mean it will again, Dr. Gandhi says. “We are continuously looking at different ways that can be avoided.”

Fear of nausea: Easily avoided, Dr. Gandhi says: “Eat a healthy breakfast or eat a full meal, keep yourself hydrated, and then come and donate blood. And don’t be thinking about ‘Oh, this is such a big needle,’ or the anxiety. Maybe a good idea would be to start thinking about a good song or watch a show, or do something. I think distraction is the key to successful donation.”

One must also avoid fatty and heavy food. It’s good to eat 35 minutes before donating blood especially for women some salty biscuits which will prevent a drop in blood pressure and avoid fainting.

Education and Information could help alleviating the fears.

There are people who feel faint at the sight of blood. According to Psychology Today, this is likely a primitive reflex. The sight of blood does make certain people uneasy, while for others it can be stressful. (i)

However, it has not been established if fainting due to the sight of blood is because of genetics or some other factor. (ii) sources: today.mins.com)

It is good to know that the usual volume extracted from blood donors is 450 ml and this represents only 1/10th the blood in our body and has no risk at all. Blood donation is safe.

To overcome this fear, you can listen to soothing music while donating blood. This will help to calm your nerves. You can also breathe deeply but slowly. You can also use visualization technique like visualizing being at a natural places like the sea-side, a lake, a garden etc.

Watch video: overcoming fears of needles

Read more about the blood donation process

alleviate fears


Can Asthmatics donate blood

AsmaWe know how sad some persons are when  they have taken their courage to come and donate blood and were told that they can’t.

Different interpretations  can cause confusion to a donor or as research has shown that wrong communication may prevent a donor to come back.

A person suffering from asthma can donate blood as long as he/she does not have any limitations on the daily activities they do or they do not have any difficulty in breathing at the time of donation.

Dr Vivek Anand Padegal, Director Pulmonology, Fortis Hospital at Bannerghatta Road, Bangalore suggests that before donating blood there should have been no signs or symptoms of asthma in the last 2 weeks. As long as the person is feeling well and healthy, he or she is eligible to donate blood. The medications for asthma do not interfere in any way.

Dr  Mrs Sonoo, Deputy Director and Head in Charge of NBTS is of the same view. You can give blood if you have mild asthma and require only occasional use of inhalers or if you are on a regular preventative treatment programme with inhalers and do not have active symptoms at present.

You cannot donate blood if you have severe asthma ( on daily inhalers and medication ) or you are symptomatic at the time of donation.

NOTE: An important prerequisite for blood donation is that the donor should be fit and well on the day of donation and that any medical condition should be under control. Blood from a donor with an infection can be dangerous for the recipient. As a precaution, at least seven days must have passed since any systemic antibiotic, antifungal or antiviral therapy before a donation can be made. Similarly, dental patients must wait for at least seven days after tooth extraction, root canal treatment, dental capping or implantation before giving blood because of the risk of bacteraemia.
DO NOT discontinue medications prescribed or recommended by your physicians in order to donate blood

Contact  NBTS ( Nursing Unit) on 427 7192

Haemoglobin and your blood donation

Haemoglobin and iron
Every time you come to give blood or platelets a Blood Bank Officer checks your haemoglobin level. THIS IS MANDATORY along with filling your Medical Questionnaire before Blood Bank checks for your HB.


What is Haemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues back to the lungs.
Haemoglobin levels vary from person to person. Men usually have higher levels than women.

A low hemoglobin count is generally defined as less than 12.5 grams of hemoglobin per deciliter (125 grams per liter) of blood. For both men and women, this is the current measurement. Previously, it was 13.5 g/dL. (deciliter)


Copyright: A. Purmanund Blood Bank Officer doing a Haemoglobin test

We set a fairly high ‘cut-off’ level because we want to be sure that your haemoglobin will not drop below normal after you have donated.

If you donate platelets you lose a certain number of red cells each time, and after a number of donations your iron stores and Hb can drop. To ensure your safety we need your Hb to be at least 125g/l for both men and women.

What is a normal haemoglobin level?

Each testing laboratory provides a reference range. This is generally considered to be the normal range for healthy adults.

Blood Service haemoglobin reference range
Females                                                        Males
125-165 g/L                                              125-185 g/L

Why is my haemoglobin measured before each donation?
The health of our blood donors and recipients is a priority. The haemoglobin screening test is performed to ensure that it is safe for you to donate and that there are sufficient red cells for the person receiving your blood.

Why haemoglobin levels might be too low to donate
There are a few reasons:

Variation between people – some of us just normally have a  low level.
• Iron – we all need iron to make haemoglobin. If your iron stores are low, the haemoglobin may fall below normal (or below the donation level).
• Testing procedure – while we take great care with our test on the session, occasionally it underestimates the amount of haemoglobin in the blood. It sounds quite “unquality like” because if we are not sure of our Hb value, we cant bleed the donors. The equipment is benign calibrated every day
• Lack of iron which is required to make new red cells
• A deficiency in vitamin B12 or folate
• Conditions causing blood loss, including blood donation. Its frequent and regular blood donation which can lower iron levels Not “a blood donation”
• Other health problems

At your next donation
You will have been asked to leave at least 3 months (4 months for women) before your next donation to allow your haemoglobin to reach a higher level. We hope that next time you come to give blood your haemoglobin will be above our ‘cut-off’ level and that you will not be disappointed again.

If you are unable to donate on 3 consecutive occasions then on your next visit, please inform our Blood Bank Officer. You may also wish to speak to Dr Mrs Sonoo, Head in Charge, NBTS – Candos by calling on 424 0650. Else, we advise you to go to an Area Health Centre (AHC) or Community Health Centre (CHC) and tell the Doctor that you  were deferred (not able to give blood) due to low HB. The Doctor will do the needful.

More about iron
Iron is very important because it helps your body to make haemoglobin and you give away a lot of iron when you donate blood.

As iron is found in a variety of foods, you can usually get enough from a balanced diet. The major sources of iron are meat and meat-based foods, cereals and vegetables.

Boosting iron levels
You can boost iron levels by trying to eat a well-balanced diet.

Although iron from non-meat sources is more difficult for the body to absorb, people following a well-balanced vegetarian or vegan diet should get enough iron in their diet.

Vegetarians and Irons
Vegetarians who eat a varied and well balanced diet are not at any greater risk of iron deficiency anaemia than non-vegetarians. A diet rich in wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, iron-fortified cereals and green leafy vegetables provides an adequate iron intake.

21 Vegetarian Foods That Are Loaded With Iron

Are Vegetarians getting enough irons?

Every day, try to eat three portions of food below that are good sources of iron:

Non-Veg sources of iron

  • lean red meat, turkey and chicken
  • fish – including mackerel, sardines, salmon, pilchards and shellfish eggs

Vegetarian Sources

  • breakfast cereals – some cereals are fortified with iron
  • pulses and beans – in particular baked beans, chickpeas and lentils
    nuts (including peanut butter)
  • brown rice
  • tofu
  • bread – especially wholemeal or brown breads
  • leafy green vegetables – especially curly kale, watercress, broccoli and spinach
    dried fruit – in particular apricots, raisins and prunes

Vitamin C
Vitamin C helps you to absorb more iron. So to get the most from the food you eat, have vitamin C rich foods with meals: for example fresh fruits and vegetables, or drinks such as fresh orange juice.

♦ Avoid drinking tea or coffee just before, after or with meals as this may reduce the absorption of iron from foods.

Are there foods that reduce iron absorption? ¹
Substances which reduce iron absorption if consumed with or within an hour following a meal, include:
• calcium found in dairy and soy products
• polyphenols found in tea, coffee, cocoa and red wine (inhibit absorption of non-haem iron only)
• oxalic acid found in spinach, rhubarb and sweet potato
• phytates found in cereals and legumes

Further Reading : Encouraging Women and young girls to donate blood regularly

1. Australian Red Cross – Iron and Haemoglobin
2. Medicine.net
3. http://www.blood.co.uk (Haemoglobin and Iron)

Encouraging young girls and women to donate blood in Mauritius

From information collected during the workshop hosted by the Ministry of Health & QL/National Blood Transfusion Service on June 13 at Gold Crest on “Blood Sustainability – Present and Future”, according to blood bank’s statistics, on gender distribution of blood donors,there is a great gap between male and female donors. Men comprised of 85.5%, while female donors only 14.5%.

42.7% was deferred due to low Hemoglobin among female donors
Being not able to give once, does not mean you cannot donate blood. Your HB (Level of Hemoglobin) was perhaps not adequate BUT that does not mean, you are anemic.
The myths that because you “supposedly” lose iron during menstruation does not mean you cannot donate blood. After your menstruation, you can come and donate blood. There is ZERO risks, provided your Hemoglobin level meets the criteria of 12.5g/dL.

Women seem more willing to donate blood than men despite the limitations that affect their donation rate. However in Mauritius, there are less female donors than men and we believe there is a need to remove those “factors” that women are less incline to donate blood.

Generally, women are more altruistically inclined than men to give blood, the motherly instinct for example BUT fear and lack of information especially among high income level female gender groups, there are less donors. However and as mentioned above, there are restrictions to women giving blood, especially low haemoglobin concentration, which reduce the number of female blood donations. Women also have more difficulty when blood is withdrawn and are more susceptible to vasovagal reactions, which negatively affect their experience as donors (fear of fainting etc).

NBTS will work on action plan to see the best means to reduce these barriers to encourage women to continue to offer to donate blood, thereby ensuring that they become regular donors, which is a key factor in guaranteeing an adequate supply of blood and to find means for that. Media including Social Media, could be used. BUT, we do sensitization at Schools and though less at Universities and almost impossible at Textiles Factories, we need perhaps be aggressive and have the support of Radio and TV.

In a study done (abroad) by Newman et al.5, 1,000 randomly selected donors were questioned about their experience 3 weeks after donating. Among women 9% reported vasovagal reactions, 11.1% fatigue and 12.5% arm discomfort after the procedure as opposed to 4.5%, 4% and 6.9%, respectively, in men. Women are typically lighter than men, and vasovagal reactions and post-donation fatigue appear inversely related to weight.

Still, the percentage of women giving blood in Mauritius is too low. We encourage our women folks to come forward and donate blood at least once or twice a year.

Donors Deferred for Low Haemoglobin

As mentioned in this article, although you were not able to donate on your recent attempt, you may be able to donate in the future. A haemoglobin and hematocrit reading, which is lower than the required level does not indicate that the donor has any serious health issues. Also, some donors naturally have lower levels, which causes them no harm. However, it may prevent them from being eligible blood donors.

According to Dr Vishwas Madhav Thakur, General Physician on Lybrate, those donors who are slightly anaemic due to iron deficiency can increase their iron intake and thereby boost their haemoglobin and hematocrit level. Men whose haemoglobin levels are below 12.5 g/dL and women who have levels below 12g/dL are not allowed to donate blood.

The most common cause of low haemoglobin, especially in women, is low levels of iron because iron is needed to make hemoglobin. Blood donation further leads to removal of iron from the body, which may cause or contribute to low iron levels and possibly anemia. For someone who has haemoglobin or blood count problem, it is important to take a multivitamin with iron or an iron-only supplement to replace the iron lost through blood and platelet donations after consultation with your doctor or practitioner.

Even though anyone with low haemoglobin is not allowed to donate blood, in rare cases if they do, they may experience symptoms like weakness, tiredness, and fatigue due to the low blood count. Patients are often encouraged to eat a well-balanced diet that is high in Vitamin C and iron rich. If a low haemoglobin patient is not allowed to donate blood today, it does not mean that the patient can never donate blood.


#1: The minimum time gap between two successive blood donations should be at least 3 months. This is because, in general, your blood cells can take around three months to regenerate post a donation episode. Going by the numbers, you can donate blood four times in a year.

#2: When it comes to the donor, ensure that your age is between 18 – 65 years and you weight is more than 45 kg, which is one of the key criteria for any person planning to donate blood. Also, you have to be in good health with your haemoglobin content more than 12.5 mg%.

#3: Blood donors are also asked questions related to their fitness before blood donation. Also, donor’s blood pressure, haemoglobin and weight are checked before the donor is deemed fit for blood donation.

#4: There are rare chances of a donor feeling dizzy, which is mainly due to anxiety. Apart from this, there are no other side-effects of donating blood. In fact, there are various health benefits of blood donation.

#5: Make sure you drink water or have fluids after donating blood as it will help you to stay hydrated as fluids get retrieved in 24 hours post blood donation. However, stay away from drinking aerated drinks or carbonated beverages.

#6: As far as diet is concerned, eat something light before donating blood. Also, avoid drinking alcohol the day prior to blood donation and do not smoke just before blood donation.

#7: Do not exercise or perform any strenuous physical activity after donating blood as there are high chances of suffering from dizziness. It is important to take rest that day to not strain yourself either physically or mentally.

Some donors, especially women, struggle with a lack of iron – or low hemoglobin in their bodies.

What you should do? What to eat? How to increase your iron counts?

What if you ever feel fainting after donating blood ?  

1. Can you give blood on your menstruation?

“You may give blood during a menstruation, but if you are having a particularly heavy menstrual bleeding, it would be better for you not to. This is because any form of blood loss can reduce the iron levels in your body and potentially make you feel unwell for a short time. If you are having medical investigations please wait until these have been completed. You must also exclude pregnancy if a period has been missed before you give blood. If you have been prescribed medication by your doctor to help cope with menstrual pain or are having heavy or prolonged periods, talk to our Blood Bank Officer or a Doctor if present.

2. How much blood is actually taken?
“During a blood donation we take 450ml of blood, which is just under a pint.”

3. Can all blood types donate?
“All blood types can be taken and we always need different blood groups, but there are times when we may make an appeal for people with rare blood types, such as O negative and B negative, to donate. This is based on the demand for that blood type at a given time. If you don’t know your blood type, you will find out after your first donation.”

4. My haemoglobin was in the normal range, but I was told I couldn’t donate.
It is normal for haemoglobin levels to fluctuate. If you’ve not previously been deferred due to low haemoglobin levels and your level was in the normal range, we encourage you to eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet with foods rich in iron and high in vitamin C.

If you donate often, see your doctor who who can consider putting you a multivitamin with iron or an iron supplement. Multivitamins and supplements are available over-the-counter, but you should discuss with your health-care provider before taking them.

5. How might low iron levels affect me?
It is normal for iron levels to fluctuate, even in those individuals who don’t donate blood and platelets. Many people who have low iron feel fine and have no symptoms. Symptoms may change from mild to more serious and can include: anemia, tiredness and irritability, reduced endurance during physical activity, difficulty concentrating or a craving to chew things such as ice or chalk (pica).

6. Do any health conditions rule you out of giving blood?
“Although most people can give blood, there are some restrictions – depending on things like your health, medication, and whether you’ve been abroad recently. You are usually able to give blood provided you are:
• fit and healthy
• weigh at least 50 kgs
• are aged between 18 and 60, or over 65 (if after 60, you give at least once a year and this applies to men as well)

Note: 17 years old can also donate blood with Parent Consent.
♦If you are underweight, pregnant, receiving IVF treatment, are on certain types of medication or have previously received a blood transfusion, you are unable to give blood.
Breast Feeding: Wait one year
Tattoo and piercing (to all donors (men and women) temporary deferral for 6 months)

♦ Surgery: from 6 to 12 months

For more information contact:

National Blood Transfusion Service – Candos
Tel: 427 0711/427 7192/424 0650/424 4766
Sources:  1. WHO
2. Cosmopolitan- UK (cosmopolitan.com)
3. Healthsite.com
4. Low Iron – oneblood.org

Good News – Benefits of Blood Donation (updated)

Previous posts: https://bloodbankmauritius.wordpress.com/2017/10/06/donating-blood-is-as-good-for-your-health-as-it-is-for-the-receiver/ 

Good News ‼️ – Blood donation benefits everyone
The health benefits of donating blood are considerable—but of course, the most important part of the process is helping to save lives. (see health benefits of giving blood: Donating blood is good for you.
♦️ Giving blood can help your liver stay healthy
Another danger of iron overload is the health of your liver. “In recent years, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the hepatic expression of metabolic syndrome, has reached epidemic proportions,” reports the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Research has linked too much iron with NAFLD, Hepatitis C and other liver diseases and infections. Though there are many other factors involved in these problems, donating blood can help relieve some of those iron stores and avoid extra issues in your liver. (Rasmussen College – Brianna Flavin)
♦️ Giving blood can help your mental state
While there are several physical benefits to donating blood, the most powerful health benefit is arguably in the psychological realm. Donating blood means that someone (or multiple people) somewhere will be getting the help they desperately need.
Donating blood, especially on a regular basis, can be similar to volunteer work. You give of your time (and your literal blood) to help strangers in need. If you go to specific blood donation location each time, you’ll get to know some of the staff who are also dedicating themselves to the cause of saving lives.
This kind of regular, altruistic interaction has major psychological benefits. Getting out of your usual environment to do something good for someone else is stimulating in the best kind of way. Volunteering has been shown to have positive effects on happiness. In people over 65-years-old, volunteering also reduces the risk of depression and loneliness.
Patenaude believes the psychological health benefit you receive from knowing you’re helping others is just as helpful as the physical health benefit. When you roll up your sleeve and sit down in that chair, you know you’re making a difference—and that makes you feel good! (Rasmussen College- Branna Flavin).

Blood donation benefits everyone

The health benefits of donating blood are something to be taken seriously especially in a country like ours with many people who suffer from diabetes and high blood pressure. Regularly donating blood helps males in particular to reduce the amount of iron in the blood. This can reduce the chance of heart attack by 88%. Additionally, regular blood donation can lower the risk of severe cardiovascular events such as stroke by 33%

All About Thalassemia

What is Thalassemia ?

The thalassemias are diverse group of genetic blood diseases characterised by absent or decreased production of normal hemoglobin, resulting in an anemia of varying degree.

Thalassemia is the most common inherited single gene disorder in the world. Scientists and public healths officials predict that thalassemia will become a worldwide issue in the next century. With global improvements in childhood disease prevention and treatment, more focus will be given to diagnosing disorders. It is our hope that by providing education about the disease we can raise awareness, encourage people to get tested for the trait, and spread knowledge about comprehensive treatment.


There are two types of thalassemias: Alpha and Beta, based on which globin chain in the hemoglobin molecule is affected. The severity of both types of thalassemia varies from a silent carrier state, where affected person carries the gene for Thalassemia without being overtly affected to most severe cases which can result in death of the baby in mother’s womb. In between are various grades of Thalassemia – Thalassemia Minor/Intermedia/Major

Alpha thalassemia—the alpha chain is affected
* Silent carrier—one gene affected
* Thalassemia trait—two genes affected
* Hemoglobin H disease—three genes affected
* Alpha hydrops fetalis—four genes affected, most severe form, results in fetal or newborn death

The Alpha Thalassemias are concentrated in South East Asia, Malaysia and Southern China. The Beta Thalassemias are seen primarily in the Mediterranean Sea area, Africa and South East asia. Due to global migration patters, there has been an increase in the incidence of thalassemia in North America in the last ten years

How Are Genes Inherited?
At the time of conception, a person receives one set of genes from the mother (egg) and a corresponding set of genes from the father (sperm). The combined effects of many genes determine some traits (hair color, and height for instance). Traits determined by a combination of genes often have gradations in magnitude (the difference between Michael Keaton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, for instance). Other characteristics are determined by a single gene pair (a person’s sex, for instance). A person is either a biological male or female.

The inheritance pattern is complicated in patients with thalassemia because two sets of genes on different chromosomes cooperate to produce hemoglobin. A defect anywhere in this complex can produce thalassemia. The expression of thalassemia, therefore, more closely resembles that of height, with gradations in effect.

sources: http://sickle.bwh.harvard.edu/thal_inheritance.htm

The inheritance pattern is complicated in patients with thalassemia because two sets of genes on different chromosomes cooperate to produce hemoglobin. A defect anywhere in this complex can produce thalassemia. The expression of thalassemia, therefore, more closely resembles that of height, with gradations in effect.

globin chains

Hemoglobin molecules which carries oxygen in the body is made up of two globin chains – Alpha and Beta chains in a 1:1 ratio. Production of these globin chains is under the control of genes. In the thalassemia patient, a mutation or deletion of the genes that control globin production occurs. This leads to a decreased production of the corresponding globin chains and an abnormal hemoglobin ratio. The abnormal ratio leads to decreased synthesis of hemoglobin and the expression of thalassemia. The globin that is produced in normal amounts winds up in excess and forms red cell aggregates of inclusions. These aggregates become oxidised and damage the cell membrane, leading to excessive breakdown of red cells, ineffective production of red cells in the bone marrow, or both. The quantity and properties of these globin chain aggregates determine the characteristics and severity of the thalassemia.

What is Thalassemia Minor ?
Your blood count may be a little lower than other people of your age and sex, but this produces no symptoms. You were born with this condition and you will have it all of your lifetime. There is no need for treatment and most people who have inherited this are not sick and probably do not know they have it. A mild form of Thalassemia minor may be mistaken for iron deficiency anemia. Iron medicines are not usually necessary and will not help your anemia. They could even be harmful if taken over a long period of time. If you marry a person who does not have Thalassemia Minor, your children may have Thalassemia Minor. If you marry a person who does have Thalassemia Minor, some of your children may have Thalassemia Major. You must decide if you want to take this risk in planning your family.


How common is Thalassemia Minor ?
About 3 – 6% of Americans of Italian and Greek descent have Thalassemia Minor. Thalassemia has also been found in people of many ethnic backgrounds, so it cannot be called a Mediterranean disease. Other areas affected are the Mid East, India, Pakistan and Southeast Asia.

  • What can you do if you have Thalassemia Trait?
    If you have thalassemia trait, you need not be concerned for your own health. However, you may be at risk of having a child with thalassemia major.
  • If your partner is tested and proved to have the normal type of hemoglobin, then no child born to the two of you can have thalassemia major.
  • If your partner does have thalassemia trait, you are at risk of having a child with thalassemia major. You can discuss the options available to you with your treating doctor.

Even if you have had children who do not have thalassemia major, you might still consider a test for your partner. If both parents have thalassemia trait, the risk of thalassemia major is the same for each pregnancy no matter how many children with normal hemoglobin or with thalassemia trait you have already had.

Wouldn’t it reassure you to know that you are free of the risk of having a child with thalassemia major?

What is Thalassemia Major ?
Thalassemia Major occurs when a person inherits two thalassemia genes, one from each parent. Thalassemia Major is a severe disease.

When BOTH parents have Thalassemia trait (Minor), the child may inherit

two normal hemoglobin genes
or one normal hemoglobin gene and one thalassemia gene
or two thalassemia genes

With EACH pregnancy there is a:


Complications from regular blood transfusions
Complications that may arise from regular blood transfusions include an overload of iron build up in vital causing diabetes, liver disease and heart
failure. The spleen may become so enlarged or overactive that it has to be remove surgically. In the past, many patients died in their teens due to these complications.


Thalassemia signs and symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Facial bone deformities
  • Slow growth
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Dark urine

Several types of thalassemia exist, including alpha-thalassemia, thalassemia intermedia and Cooley anemia. The signs and symptoms you experience depend on the type and severity of your condition. Some babies show signs and symptoms of thalassemia at birth, while others may develop them during the first two years of life. Some people who have only one affected hemoglobin gene don’t experience any thalassemia symptoms. (sources: Mayo Clinic. See  references below) ¹

Read more from Nusruth Ebrahim Saib testimonial 

A few years ago, a medication called deferoxamine (Desferal)  was given to Thalassemia Major patients to remove iron from the body, and it must be given by slow infusions under the skin or in a vein over 10-12 hours five to seven times a week using a battery driven pump. in many countries this is still being used.

Hopefully, there is new oral form of medication named Asunra by Novartis that are now available and which reduces the painful removal of iron. It should be dissolved (not effervescent) in water or juice and should be taken everyday. Researchers are investigating two potentially curative treatments: bone marrow transplantation and gene therapy. Both methods have shown promise.

Thalassemia Major patients require in general MONTHLY blood transfusions

As per the above video on Thalassemia and this post, without blood transfusions, thalassemia major patients will not survive. Maintaining a safe and adequate blood supply is of great importance to the general public. Because those with a severe form of thalassemia require blood transfusions as often as every two weeks/ 3 weeks, the blood supply is of special importance to the thalassemia community.

There are more than 160 Thalassemia patients who require blood transfusions in Mauritius.  With increasing life expectancy and number of thalassemic patients, the need for safe blood is increasing too, but on the other hand the numbers of donors are decreasing due to aging of donor population, decline from younger people between 18 to 35 years old (due to indifference mostly, fear of needles !!!),  infections, changing moral values, etc. And there is an important gap between demand and blood supply.

More Blood Donors Needed
We URGE Mauritians to transgress all barriers (if ever) come forward to donate blood to people like the Thalassemia patients as well as other  complex and urgent treatment like cancer, cardiac patients undergoing surgery, accident victims, gynecology, a mother giving birth and an increased number of complex therapies like chemotherapy for cancer patients as mentioned above.

Our young Mauritians often forget for how many medical procedures blood is a vital necessity.  Probably the greatest incentives are that they understand by donating blood, they are saving lives !

Thalassemia Society Mauritius with the support of sponsors has  made lives easy with the support of Ministry of Health & Quality of Life by doting  Regional Hospitals (except Flacq) with a Day Care Thalassemia Ward (JNH, Ag. Jeetoo, SSRN and recently at Victoria Hospital, Candos).

Need Voice from Thalassemia Patients:
See the Page Testimonials on this page to share your experiences, to thank blood donors and your stories. send us an email with your full name, Telephone numbers, address and where you do treatment. If you are a minor, you need your responsible party/ies permission.

Further reading/watching:
(1) Thalassemia – The Untold Story 
(2) Beta Thalassemia
(3) Thalassemia (Mayo Clinic) (References ¹)
(4) Thalassemia documentary ( WARNING:  sensitive person better not watch !)
(5) Thalassemia in Pakistan (Urdu)