Thalassaemia major is a relatively common disease in Lebanon. This study of 41 families with 54 patients attending the American University of Beirut Medical Center was conducted to define some aspects of the disease in Lebanon and to assess the attitudes of affected families on relevant psychosocial and economic issues. We conclude that because of the high frequency of consanguineous marriage, thalassaemia major is more common in Lebanon than might be expected on the basis of the incidence of the trait. Most patients are diagnosed early in life, but their treatment is generally far from adequate; securing desferrioxamine and paying for follow up visits to the doctor seem to be the most important financial burdens. The general population of the country is not properly informed yet and about 70% of the families had not heard about the disease before having an affected child. The inherited nature of the disease is not clear in the minds of a high percentage of the families, and in about 30% of cases the family had not been told about the advisability of screening to detect heterozygotes. The great majority of families favour a preventive approach to thalassaemia, based on heterozygote screening and the possibility of prenatal diagnosis.
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