Hemoglobin E Trait

What is hemoglobin E trait?

  • Hemoglobin E trait affects the hemoglobin in the red blood cells.
  • All red blood cells contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body.
  • People with hemoglobin E trait have both normal hemoglobin A and abnormal hemoglobin E in their red blood cells.
  • There are several hundred different types of hemoglobin. Hemoglobin E is the third most common type of hemoglobin, after hemoglobin A and hemoglobin S.
  • Hemoglobin E is very common in people of Asian descent. It can also be found in people of African, Indian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent.

People with hemoglobin E trait do not have hemoglobin E disease or hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia disease. They cannot develop these diseases later in life. They can pass hemoglobin E trait on to their children.

Why is it important to know if I have hemoglobin E trait?

Hemoglobin E trait is inherited from one’s parents, like hair or eye color. Normally, hemoglobin E trait does not cause any health problems.  If one parent has hemoglobin E trait and the other parent has normal hemoglobin A, there is a 50 percent (1 in 2) chance with each pregnancy of having a child with hemoglobin E trait. These are the possible outcomes with each pregnancy. 

  • 50 percent (1 in 2) chance of having a child with Hemoglobin E trait
  • 50 percent (1 in 2) chance of having a child without trait
Hemaglobin E Trait

If both parents have hemoglobin E trait, it is possible, with each pregnancy, to have a child with hemoglobin E disease or hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia disease (E/β thalassemia disease). These are lifelong illnesses, and if you have hemoglobin E trait, you should receive genetic counseling for the risk of inheritance of these diseases. This is why it is important to understand how hemoglobin E trait is passed on, and how it can affect the health of your children and grandchildren.

Hemoglobin E/beta (Eβ) thalassemia disease

People inherit hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia from their parents. If one parent has hemoglobin E trait and the other parent has beta thalassemia trait there is a 25 percent (1 in 4) chance with each pregnancy of having a child with hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia (Eβ) disease. This is a lifelong illness that can result in serious health problems. People with hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia should be treated by a physician.  These are the possible outcomes with each pregnancy.

  • 25 percent (1 in 4) chance of having a child with Hemoglobin E  trait
  • 25 percent (1 in 4) chance of having a child with beta thalassemia  trait
  • 25 percent (1 in 4) chance of having a child with Hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia disease
  • 25 percent (1 in 4) chance of having a child without trait or disease
Hemoglobin E Traint - one parent

Hemoglobin E disease

People with hemoglobin E trait can also have a child with Hemoglobin E disease. Hemoglobin E disease is not a form of sickle cell disease. People with hemoglobin E disease normally do not have serious medical problems related to the disease. People with hemoglobin E disease may have mild anemia.

What if both parents have hemoglobin E trait?

If both parents have hemoglobin E trait there is a 25 percent (1 in 4) chance with each pregnancy of having a child with hemoglobin E disease. These are the possible outcomes with each pregnancy.

  • 25 percent (1 in 4) chance of having a child with Hemoglobin E disease
  • 50 percent (1 in 2) chance of having a child with Hemoglobin E trait
  • 25 percent (1 in 4) chance of having a child without trait or disease
Hemaglobin E Trait - both parents

Review – How hemoglobin E trait, hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia disease, and hemoglobin E disease are inherited

If one parent has hemoglobin E trait and the other parent has normal hemoglobin, there is a 50 percent (1 in 2) chance with each pregnancy of having a child with hemoglobin E trait.

If one parent has hemoglobin E trait and the other parent has beta thalassemia trait, there is a 25 percent (1 in 4) chance with each pregnancy of having a child with hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia disease.  Hemoglobin E/beta thalassemia disease is a lifelong disease that can cause serious health problems.

If both parents have hemoglobin E trait, there is a 25 percent (1 in 4) chance with each pregnancy of having a child with hemoglobin E disease. People with hemoglobin E may have health problems and mild anemia.

The only way to know if you have hemoglobin E trait is to have a standard blood test.

Talk to your physician about genetic testing and counseling if you or a member of your family has hemoglobin E trait.