Endocrine Complications

Endocrine disorders are often quite complex, involving a mixed picture of hyposecretion and hypersecretion because of the feedback mechanisms involved in the endocrine system. For example, most forms of hyperthyroidism are associated with an excess of thyroid hormone and a low level of thyroid stimulating hormone. Patients with multi-transfused thalassemia 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. 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.

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