An inherited form of hemolytic anemia, thalassemia stems from the body's inability to manufacture as much normal hemoglobin as it needs. There are two categories of thalassemia, depending on which of the amino acid chains is affected. (Hemoglobin is composed of four chains of amino acids.) In alpha-thalassemia, there is an imbalance in the production of the alpha chain of amino acids; in beta-thalassemia, there is an imbalance in the beta chain. Alpha-thalassemias most commonly affect blacks (25% have at least one gene); beta-thalassemias most commonly affect people of Mediterranean and Southeast Asian ancestry.
Characterized by production of red blood cells that are unusually small and fragile, thalassemia only affects people who inherit the gene for it from each parent (autosomal recessive inheritance).
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
Warm antibody hemolytic anemia is the most common type of this disorder. This condition occurs when the body produces autoantibodies that coat red blood cells. The coated cells are destroyed by the spleen, liver, or bone marrow.
In cold antibody hemolytic anemia, the body attacks red blood cells at or below normal body temperature. The acute form of this condition frequently develops in people who have had pneumonia, mononucleosis, or other acute infections. It tends to be mild and short-lived, and disappears without treatment.
Chronic cold antibody hemolytic anemia is most common in women and most often affects those who are over 40 and have arthritis. This condition usually lasts for a lifetime, generally causing few symptoms. However, exposure to cold temperatures can accelerate red blood cell destruction, causing fatigue, joint aches, and discoloration of the arms and hands.
Paula Ford-Martin, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,