Thalassemia major is an inherited form of hemolytic anemia, characterized by red blood cell (hemoglobin) production abnormalities. This is the most severe form of anemia, and the oxygen depletion in the body becomes apparent within the first 6 months of life. If left untreated, death usually results within a few years. Note the small, pale (hypochromic), abnormally-shaped red blood cells associated with thalassemia major. The darker cells likely represent normal RBCs from a blood transfusion.
Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.