Hemoglobinopathy is the medical term for a group of blood disorders and diseases that affect red blood cells.
It can be a kind of genetic defect that results in abnormal structure of one of the globin chains of the hemoglobin molecule. Hemoglobinopathies are inherited single-gene disorders; in most cases, they are inherited as autosomal co-dominant traits. Common hemoglobinopathies include sickle-cell disease. It is estimated that 7% of world's population (420 million) are carriers, with 60% of total and 70% pathological being in Africa. Hemoglobinopathies are most common in populations from Africa, the Mediterranean basin and Southeast Asia.
Hemoglobinopathies are simply structural abnormalities in the globin proteins themselves. Thalassemias, in contrast, usually result in underproduction of normal globin proteins, often through mutations in regulatory genes. The two conditions may overlap, however, since some conditions which cause abnormalities in globin proteins (hemoglobinopathy) also affect their production (thalassemia). Thus, some hemoglobinopathies are also thalassemias, but most are not.
Either hemoglobinopathy or thalassemia, or both, may cause anemia. Some well-known hemoglobin variants such as sickle-cell anemia and congenital dyserythropoietic anemia are responsible for diseases, and are considered hemoglobinopathies. However, many hemoglobin variants do not cause pathology or anemia, and thus are often not classed as hemoglobinopathies, because they are not considered pathologies. Hemoglobin variants are a part of the normal embryonic and fetal development, but may also be pathologic mutant forms of hemoglobin in a population, caused by variations in genetics. Other variants cause no detectable pathology, and are thus considered non-pathological variants.