Hemoglobin E


What is Hemoglobin E?

Hemoglobin E is a common but minor blood abnormality in individuals from Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Up to 30% of such persons have mild forms of this condition which involves the hemoglobin or red part of the blood.

Persons with hemoglobin E disorders are usually quite healthy and have no symptoms or problems related to their blood condition. The blood disorder is often identified because there are slight abnormalities in the size and appearance of the red blood cells under the microscope or mild anemia (reduced blood count) discovered when a routine blood count is done. A specific diagnostic test, called a hemoglobin electrophoresis, detects hemoglobin E.

Hemoglobin E is an inherited condition, meaning that it may be passed from parent to child. Therefore, many members of a family may be affected, and during an investigation by a blood specialist or other physician, other members of the family might be asked to have blood tests done.


diagram showing possibilities of inheriting Hemoglobin E with each pregancy

 Possibilities with each pregnancy

There are several types of hemoglobin E disorders. They will be explained to you by your physician or nurse. Hemoglobin E trait is the most common, occurring in up to 30% of people from certain areas of Southeast Asia. Hemoglobin E disease (homozygous hemoglobin E disease) is less common and may also occur in association with another common blood condition in Southeast Asia called thalassemia. In thalassemia the blood count may also be slightly low (although not usually causing problems), in association with an unusual appearance of the blood under the microscope.

Even though most of these conditions are not serious, it is important for a correct diagnosis to be made in order that you and your physicians are informed about them since they will remain for your (or your child's) entire life. Identifying the cause of the anemia as hemoglobin E might avoid unnecessary treatment (such as iron). Also, a correct diagnosis should be made because there are several uncommon forms of hemoglobin E disorders (such as hemoglobin E beta zero thalassemia) which can be serious.

If you have questions about this information, please discuss it with your doctor or nurse. 

For more information about the Newborn Screening Program contact:
Texas Department of State Health Services
Newborn Screening Unit MC 1918
1100 West 49th Street
Austin, Texas 78756
Phone: 1-800-252-8023, ext. 3957 or