What is G6PD Deficiency? G6PD, an acronym hard to remember and easy to jumble up, stands for Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase. This is an enzyme all humans are born with. It protects red blood cells from many harmful by-products the body may create when the body consumes certain foods or medications, thus allowing them to function normally. It also helps processes the conversion of carbohydrates into energy.
To go back to our long forgotten high school biology lessons, an enzyme is a protein that catalyzes, or controls the rate of chemical reactions. Therefore a deficiency in the G6PD enzyme means that our red blood cells are not creating enough of it, or that we can not process the G6PD created by our bodies.
This disorder is inherited via the X-Chromosone passed from either or both parents. As with all other X-linked conditions, this occurs much more often in males. An estimated 400 million people are affected by this, and there are a possible 400 different types of this infirmity. Although most common in people of African and Mediterranean heritage, South East Asia has also been noted as a region of regular occurrence.
A manageable disorder but with possible complications Before you start panicking, G6PD Deficiency, though not curable, is a highly manageable disorder. Children may live long and healthy lives as long as certain medical and dietary restrictions among other conditions are met.
However, if left untreated and ignored, it may result into a condition called hemolytic anemia, where red blood cells are destroyed and the body can not create enough on time to replace them. This can lead to jaundice, fatigue, and high heart rates, which can ultimately lead to more severe diseases and in some cases, even death.
How do babies and pregnant women become G6PD deficient? According to Dr. Judy Ann Uy-de Luna, mother and OB-GYN at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City:
"There is yet no known medical literature regarding how G6PD can be contracted by fetuses and thus pregnant women. There is also no way still to detect this disorder during pregnancy. I strongly advise newborn screening and immediate consultation with a pediatrician.”
And to allay common misconceptions, Dr. Uy-De Luna adds that “There is still no link between eating sweet foods and desserts during gestation, so I advice pregnant women to eat sensible diets."
Click here to learn more about what happens when your child tests positive for G6PD deficiency and its symptoms.