G6PD (Glucose-6-Phosphate Dehydrogenase) is an enzyme that your body uses to make essential compounds. Its activity also protects your red blood cells against damaging oxidative stress.

G6PD deficiency (G6PDd) is the most common inherited enzyme deficiency in the world. Over 5% of the world’s population is affected. People who are G6PD deficient express various degrees of impairment of the activity of this important enzyme. Understand how G6PDd can be passed down in families.  Go to: Did I Inherit G6PDd?

Since G6PD deficiency is an inherited genetic defect,  it cannot be cured, but knowledge can help you control the effects of the deficiency. The more you understand about it, the better you can avoid the impact of this enzyme deficiency on newborns, children and adults.

A G6PD deficient person can be exposed to certain triggers that can cause oxidative stress. This can cause the unprotected red blood cells to break down (hemolysis) and the G6PD deficient could have a hemolytic anemia outcome. Know the signs of Acute Hemolytic Anemia.

The most common known cause (trigger) for a hemolytic episode to occur is when a G6PD deficient person becomes sick with an infection. Thus it is very important to keep a healthy lifestyle and avoid getting run down or sick. Certain medicines, food and chemicals are known triggers of oxidative stress and should be avoided by anyone with G6PD deficiency. It is important to learn how to prevent hemolytic episodes.

G6PD deficiency is not evenly distributed around the world. High frequencies are found in the Sub-Saharan African, Mediterranean and South-East Asian countries. The USA population includes descendants of people from these regions and the overall frequency of G6PDd is estimated to be 4-7%. However, in African-American males, the prevalence is about 12%.

There are various blood and saliva screening tests for G6PD deficiency but they are not routinely given in the USA.

G6PD deficiency is a major risk factor for dangerous levels of bilirubin (hyperbilirubinemia) in newborns. Severe jaundice (hyperbilirubinemia) develops in about 0.1% (1 in 1,000) newborns. Other disorders can contribute to neonatal jaundice and not all G6PD deficient newborns become jaundiced. Be aware of the signs for neonatal jaundice.

Important to note: If hyperbilirubinemia is not recognized, and is left untreated, the baby can develop Kernicterus (brain damage due to extremely high levels of bilirubin in the blood). In the USA it is noted that up to 30% of these severely jaundiced newborns are G6PD deficient. Kernicterus is life threatening.

Prior to any kind of medical care treatment, it is important to inform the health provider that you are G6PD deficient.

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