Endocrine complications in patients with thalassaemia major

Meropi Toumba, Andreas Sergis, Constantinos Kanaris, Nicos Skordis

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Abstract

Patients with multi-transfused thalassaemia major may develop severe endocrine complications due to iron overload. The anterior pituitary is particularly sensitive to iron overload which disrupts hormonal secretion resulting in hypogonadism, short stature, acquired hypothyroidism and hypoparathyroidism. Glucose intolerance and diabetes mellitus are also common in thalassaemic patients. The seventy of the clinical manifestation and laboratory findings in thalassaemia largely depends on the genotype; thus homozygotes or compound heterozygotes for the mutations β0 or β+ depend for life on frequent transfusions. A multicenter study in Cyprus including 435 patients showed hypogonadotrophic hypogonadism in 32.5%, short stature in 35%, acquired hypothyroidism in 5.9%, hypoparathyroidism in 1.2% and diabetes mellitus in 9.4%. A slowing down of growth velocity and a reduced or absent pubertal growth spurt is observed in early adolescence leading to short adult height. Delayed or absent puberty and hypogonadism may result in fertility problems which affect enormously the life of thalassemics. Glucose intolerance in adolescence and diabetes mellitus later in life are also frequent complications mainly due to iron overload, chronic liver disease and genetic predisposition. Primary hypothyroidism and hypoparathyroidsm usually appear in the second decade of life; are related to iron overload and may be reversible at an early stage by intensive chelation. Osteopenia and osteoporosis due to a complicated pathogenesis represent prominent causes of morbidity in young adults of both genders with thalassaemia. Early recognition and prevention of the endocrine complications, by early and regular chelation therapy, is mandatory for the improvement of the quality of life and psychological outcome of these patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)642-648
Number of pages7
JournalPediatric Endocrinology Reviews
Volume5
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2007

Keywords

  • β-globin gene mutations
  • Endocrine complications
  • Iron chelation therapy
  • Multiple transfusions
  • Thalassaemia major

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    Toumba, M., Sergis, A., Kanaris, C., & Skordis, N. (2007). Endocrine complications in patients with thalassaemia major. Pediatric Endocrinology Reviews, 5(2), 642-648.