Alpha 0 Thalassaemia -Carrier

This information is for people who have had a blood test that definitely shows they carry alpha zero thalassaemia.

Important points for carriers of alpha zero thalassaemia to remember.

  • Carrying alpha zero thalassaemia is not an illness and does not affect your health.
  • Alpha zero thalassaemia can be passed to their children by men as well as women.
  • Alpha zero thalassaemia is different from beta thalassaemia.
  • It could affect the health of some of your pregnancies, but you can avoid this risk with medical advice.
  • Do not forget that you carry alpha zero thalassaemia. Keep your blood test results and this information with your medical papers.
  • Show this information to your doctor when you are thinking of having a family, or when he or she takes blood for any other reason.
  • Show this information to your GP when you think you may be pregnant.
  • Show this information to the midwife when you come to hospital for booking.
  • If you want more information, ask your doctor to arrange a visit to a special thalassaemia or genetic counsellor.
  • Take this information with you if you go to see a doctor or genetic counsellor about your alpha thalassaemia

Blood & Anaemia

To explain about alpha thalassaemia we must first talk a little about normal blood and anaemia. Blood is made up of a lot of blood cells in clear, slightly yellow liquid called plasma. Blood is red because the red blood cells contain a substance called haemoglobin, which carries oxygen from your lungs to wherever it is needed in your body. Haemoglobin contains a lot of iron. The main reason why people need iron in their food is to make haemoglobin.

Some people have too little haemoglobin in their blood. These people have anaemia. There are many different kinds of anaemia. The most common kind is iron deficiency anaemia. This happens when people are not eating enough of the foods that contain iron, or if people lose a lot of blood by bleeding. Some people who carry thalassaemia have a very mild anaemia, but it has nothing to do with the amount of iron you are getting from your food. Thalassaemia is not iron deficiency anaemia, it is an inherited condition. However, people who carry alpha thalassaemia can also get iron deficiency. People who carry alpha zero thalassaemia trait and people with iron deficiency anaemia have smaller red blood cells than usual.

What is Alpha Zero

Alpha zero thalassaemia is a characteristic of the blood. It is inherited, that is, it is passed on from parents to children like hair colour, eye colour or skin colour. It is passed on equally by men and women. It is not catching and will not turn into an illness.
Alpha zero thalassaemia is common among people originating from South East Asia. It occurs occasionally among people originating from the Mediterranean area or the Middle East, and very rarely in North Europeans. For example, about 1 in 15 people originating from Southern China, 1 in 50 Cypriots and about 1 in 1,000 North Europeans carry alpha zero thalassaemia.

Testing for Alpha Zero

You have to have a special blood tests (a DNA test), which has to be sent to a specialist laboratory. Your results should be written down and kept in a safe place.

The 3 forms of Alpha Zero

Carriers of alpha zero thalassaemia. People who carry alpha zero thalassaemia are perfectly healthy in themselves, but if both members of a couple carry alpha zero thalassaemia, they may pass alpha zero thalassaemia major on to their children.

Alpha zero thalassaemia major. This can happen if a baby inherits alpha zero thalassaemia from both parents. It is a very severe anaemia that affects the unborn baby in the womb. The baby cannot make enough blood and dies either before birth, or within a few hours of birth. Alpha zero thalassaemia major is also called Hb Barts hydrops fetalis.

Haemoglobin H disease. This can happen when one parent has alpha zero thalassaemia trait and the other carries a milder form of alpha thalassaemia called alpha plus thalassaemia. 

People with Haemoglobin H disease are anaemic, but can usually lead a normal life without the need for any treatment.