What is the problem and what can go wrong?
If glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD or G-6-PD) enzyme is not available in your body, strong chemical products or toxins will not be neutralized and they may damage the hemoglobin (a protein that transports oxygen in the blood) inside the red blood cells.
If toxins or chemicals build up in your body, it may cause breakdown of red blood cells and destroy them, which is known as hemolysis. This process may reduce the level of hemoglobin and red blood cells in your body, which is known as anemia.
Most individuals are asymptomatic. However, this hemolysis may make you severely anemic, which sometimes occurs very quickly. You may get
- A sudden increase in body temperature
- Jaundice (yellowish discoloration of the skin and mucous membranes)
- Dark yellowish urine
- Shortness of breath
- Paleness, fatigue and malaise
- Worsening of physical conditions
- Weak and rapid pulse and heartbeat
Some infants may also be affected by jaundice due to G6PD deficiency (G6PDD), which is quite risky.
Your risk of hemolysis and severe anemia may increase if you have G6PDD with infectious diseases such as
- Fifth disease: Rashes due to a parvovirus infection
- Mononucleosis: A lymph node infection due to Epstein–Barr virus
- Hepatitis: A liver infection with inflammation
- Pneumonia: Lung infection
- Blood infection
Sometimes, it may lead to hemolytic crisis due to rapid breakdown of red blood cells in your body. This may require hospitalization and immediate blood transfusion.
Can G6PD be cured?
Yes. Fortunately, once you remove and avoid the foods and medicines that are triggering these symptoms in you, hemolysis usually stops within a short period of time.
Your doctor will provide a detailed list of medicines and substances that may trigger hemolysis that you should avoid.
If you have mild deficiency symptoms, then transfusion is usually not recommended. In case of a severe hemolytic crisis, your doctor will give you a blood transfusion of either whole blood or packed cells. In areas where glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD or G-6-PD) deficiency (G6PDD) is very common, the doctor will avoid giving G6PD-deficient blood to patients.