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G6PD Deficiency

Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is a protein that helps protect red blood cells and ensures their proper functioning. If there is not enough G6PD, some red blood cells may be destroyed. Most people with G6PD deficiency do not have any symptoms.

If too many red blood cells are destroyed, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Back and stomach pain
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes)
  • Fever
  • General malaise
  • Headache
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pale skin
  • Dark urine

Causes and triggers

G6PD deficiency is an inherited disorder, which means it is passed from parent to child. Men are more likely to develop G6PD deficiency than women. Also, it most commonly affects people from these regions:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • South America
  • Middle East
  • Mediterranean

The destruction of red blood cells in those with G6PD deficiency is usually caused by:

  • An infection
  • Eating certain types of beans, particularly fava beans (broad beans)
  • Contact with or exposure, through inhalation, to naphthalene (component of mothballs)
  • Certain medications

Treatment

Treatment is based on the patient's symptoms and their severity. Often, simply stopping the medication or the food responsible is enough to resolve the issue. Symptoms usually disappear within a few weeks. More serious cases may require a blood transfusion.

If you have G6PD deficiency, do not forget to inform medical professionals involved in your care. They will be able to advise you on the medications and natural health products that are safe for you.

When should I see a medical professional?

See a medical professional if you suspect G6PD deficiency, or if you are diagnosed with G6PD deficiency and have one of the above mentioned symptoms.

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