G6PD Deficiency: Understanding the Condition

As a parent, learning your child has G6PD deficiency can be stressful and worrisome. However, gaining better knowledge of this condition can help you fully understand the factors that can affect your child's health and effectively strategize ways to help them.

What is G6PD deficiency?

It is a genetic condition affecting the glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) enzyme. This enzyme protects the red blood cells from early destruction. Children with this condition have none or very little of this enzyme, so their red blood cells are easily destroyed. 

What causes this condition?

G6PD deficiency is hereditary. Children are born with this condition if they inherit a defective X chromosome gene from one or both parents.

What are the consequences or complications?

Just like any health condition, G6PD deficiency, if unmanaged, may lead to health complications. This enzyme deficiency can lead to severe anemia triggered by specific chemicals, medications or food that destroy red blood cells.

If your G6PD deficient child is not showing any symptoms, their risk of developing anemia when exposed to triggers remains the same. It is still necessary to take extra precautions and avoid triggers that may cause symptoms to prevent complications.

Click HERE to know how G6PD can be managed.

How will you know if your child has G6PD deficiency?

After birth, babies can go through newborn screening to determine if they have this condition. However, this procedure is optional. If your child missed this test, they could still undergo confirmatory testing with their pediatrician.

You can also find out if your child has G6PD deficiency if they have the symptoms of anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells.

Symptoms of anemia are the following:

  • Pale skin
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Fast heartbeat 
  • Fast breathing or shortness of breath
  • Yellow skin and eyes/Jaundice
  • Dark urine

Click HERE to download a printable infographic for G6PD signs and symptoms.

Taking care of a child with G6PD deficiency

G6PD deficiency is a lifetime condition. Ultimately, the goal is to avoid the triggers to prevent severe anemia from happening.

In managing your child's G6PD deficiency, here are some essential key reminders:

  • Tell your child's pediatrician about this condition. This can prevent prescription of medications that may trigger the symptoms. 
  • Memorize the signs and symptoms of severe anemia and consult a doctor immediately if these symptoms appear.
  • Keep a list of substances to avoid (e.g., certain chemicals, food, and medications). Post it on your fridge or kitchen wall for easy access. You may also download a list of triggers on your phone to keep it handy, especially when you are in the grocery store or pharmacy. 
  • Always check the food labels first before buying food and drinks. Make sure they are FREE FROM specific ingredient triggers.

Understanding G6PD deficiency and its health consequences can help you effectively manage your child's condition to help them lead a normal and healthy life.

 

For related articles on G6PD Deficiency, please check the following:

MEDICAL DISCLAIMER: The information included in this material is for informational purposes only. Always seek medical advice for any concerns about health and nutrition.


References:

  1. Nagalla S. Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase (G6PD) Deficiency Overview. Medscape resource page. Available at: emedicine.medscape.com/article/200390-treatment. Accessed 7 July 2021.
  2. Ben-Joseph E. G6PD Deficiency. KidsHealth from Nemours resource page. Available at: kidshealth.org/en/parents/g6pd.html 7 July 2021.  
  3. National Institutes of Health-Philippines. (2017). Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase Deficiency [Brochure]. Newborn Screening Philippines resource page. Available at: www.newbornscreening.ph/images/stories/downloadables/G6PD-brochure_2017.pdf. Accessed 8 July 2021. 
  4. Newborn Screening Reference Center (NSRC). Basic Information About Newborn Screening. NSRC resource page. Available at: www.newbornscreening.ph/index.php. Accessed 8 July 2021.