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Disorders of the synthesis or function of haemoglobin 

Disorders of the synthesis or function of haemoglobin
Chapter:
Disorders of the synthesis or function of haemoglobin
Author(s):

Deborah Hay

, and David J. Weatherall

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198746690.003.0537
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date: 25 February 2021

The inherited disorders of haemoglobin are the commonest single-gene disorders in the world. Disorders of haemoglobin can be genetic or acquired and due to disordered production of one or more globin chains or structural change in the globin chain. The most important disorders are the genetic conditions thalassaemia and sickle cell disease. Thalassaemia—a heterogeneous group of genetic disorders, all resulting from a reduced rate of production of one or more of the globin chains of haemoglobin and inherited in a simple Mendelian fashion. They are clinically classified according to their severity into major (a severe transfusion-dependent disorder), intermediate (characterized by anaemia and splenomegaly), and minor (a symptomless carrier state) forms. The β‎ thalassaemias are the most important types of thalassaemia because they are very common and produce severe anaemia in their homozygous and compound heterozygous states. Most countries in which the disease is common are putting a major effort into programmes for its prevention (population screening and prenatal diagnosis). Symptomatic management of severe disease requires regular blood transfusion, judicious use of splenectomy if hypersplenism develops, and chelating agents to reduce iron overload. Sickle cell disease—haemoglobin S differs from haemoglobin A by the substitution of valine for glutamic acid at position 6 in the β‎ globin chain, and homozygosity for haemoglobin S produces the state of sickle cell disease. This occurs very frequently in African populations and, sporadically, throughout the Mediterranean region and the Middle East, with extensive pockets in India. Management of both acute and chronic complications remains largely supportive, with hydroxycarbamide being the only clinically proven effective treatment to date.

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