What is Cooley's Anemia?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 November 2019
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Also known as thalassemia or Mediterranean anemia, Cooley’s anemia is a condition in which the level of hemoglobin in the blood is noticeably lower than normal. The amount of red blood cells present is also usually reduced, making it more difficult for the body to carry oxygen through the bloodstream and to the various organs. As a result, the individual suffering with this form of anemia will experience a number of symptoms that can seriously impact the quality of life.

While there are several speculative causes of Cooley’s anemia debated among health professionals, most agree that this particular condition is hereditary in nature, and is passed from one generation to the next. Cooley’s anemia inheritance is particularly prominent in situations where both parents suffer with some degree of this health issue. However, there are no guarantees that offspring will experience the same level of anemia as the parents. A child may suffer with a mild case thalassemia while one or both parents exhibit more severe symptoms.

Cooley’s anemia symptoms can range from relatively mild to severe. There are several symptoms that are likely to appear at some time during the patient’s life. Fatigue and being short of breath are two of the more common symptoms. The individual is also likely to be somewhat pale, possibly exhibiting signs of jaundice.


An individual suffering with Cooley’s anemia is typically much more subject to periods of irritability than others. Along with the irritability, there is also the opportunity for more frequent headaches and sleep apnea. Skeletal deformations, especially in the bone structure of the face, are not unusual. Growth is usually hampered noticeably and the urine is often clouded and darker than normal.

Depending on the severity of the condition, medical treatment for Cooley’s anemia may not be necessary. Mild cases can often be addressed with solutions such as eating a healthy diet that contains adequate amounts of Vitamin D, calcium, and zinc. Iron intake should be limited. Other key vitamins, such as various B vitamins, may be added to help increase energy levels. A qualified physician can help design a diet plan that will provide proper nutrition while easing the pain and discomfort associated with the disease.

In more advanced cases, the only solution may be blood transfusions on a recurring basis. The introduction of fresh blood into the body can help increase both the amount of red blood cells present and the level of hemoglobin in the bloodstream. The transfusions can help minimize fatigue, improve skin color and general mood, and also decrease the chances for additional malformations of the skeletal structure.


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