Your body makes three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (PLATE-lets). Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, an iron-rich protein that carries oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body. Hemoglobin also carries carbon dioxide (a waste gas) from your body to your lungs to be exhaled. Hemoglobin has two kinds of protein chains: alpha globins and beta globins. If your body doesn't make enough of these protein chains, red blood cells don't form properly and can't carry enough oxygen. Your body won't work well if your red blood cells don't make enough healthy hemoglobin. Genes control how the body makes hemoglobin protein chains. When these genes are missing or altered, thalassemia occur. Thalassemia are inherited disorders. That is, they're passed on from parents to their children through genes. People who get abnormal hemoglobin genes from one parent but normal genes from the other are called carriers. Carriers often have no signs of illness other than mild anemia. However, they can pass the abnormal genes on to their children. People with moderate to severe forms of thalassemia have inherited abnormal genes from both parents. Family history and ancestry Thalassemia are inherited, which means they're passed on from parents to their children. If your parents have missing or altered hemoglobin-making genes, you may have a thalassemia. The Maldives has the highest incidence of Thalassemia in the world with a carrier rate of 18% of the population. The estimated prevalence is 16% in people from Cyprus, 1% in Thailand, and 3-8% in populations from Bangladesh, China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan. No statistically significant differences were found in the average life expectancy between the thalassemia and non thalassemia groups. People with thalassemia major may experience the following: Paleness Headaches Fatigue Shortness of breath Jaundice Spleen enlargement Thalassemia trait : Normally, there are no treatments recommended. However, the doctor may suggest taking iron medication if they feel it is necessary. Thalassemia major : The primary treatment is regular blood transfusions, usually every four weeks. In addition to the blood transfusions, doctors recommend injections of Deferral to help the body flush out the extra iron created by the new blood. The injections are given under the skin from a small pump 5 to 7 nights a week. Additionally, splenectomy (removal of the spleen), bone marrow transplants and chelating therapy are being researched as possible treatments for thalassemia.