Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 April 2008 05:30 Tuesday, 01 April 2008 05:30
Blood disorders refer to the malfunctioning of the blood or blood cells causing it to fail in certain functions. Blood disorders may be caused by a variety of reasons, such as heredity, birth defects and illnesses. Due to the vast complexity of blood, with many cells and other minerals circulating within it, there are many disorders especially when each every matter in our blood is essential for survival.
- Red Blood Cells Disorders
- White Blood Cell Disorders
- Blood Clotting Disorders
- Blood platelets disorders
- Other Disorders
Anemia is the most common disorder of red blood cells. It decreases the count of the red blood cells or the number of red blood cells per unit blood. Important processes such as muscular activity and cell building and repair, slow down and become less efficient. Common symptoms of anemia are dizzy spells, weakness, fatigue, depression and paleness in either the fingernails or lips.
There are 2 main causes of Anemia:
Decrease Production of RBC
The decrease in production of the red blood cells is usually due to the lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid. Iron is essential for the formation of haemoglobin which is responsible for the transportation of oxygen around the body. Without an adequate supply of iron, insufficient haemoglobin is produced, leading to a lower production of red blood cells. People suffering from a lack of vitamin B12 may be due to the inability of the villi within the gastrointestinal tract to absorb this vitamin. This vitamin can often by found from meats and an average person would have a 3-5 year stock of this vitamin. The lack of folic acid is mainly due to a poor diet or alcoholism.
Patients suffering from a lack of iron should increase their iron intake from either from iron tablet or raw liver extracts. Iron supplements should not be taken at the same time as calcium, vitamin E, zinc or antacids as they may interfere with the absorption of iron. Iron deficiency anemia should disappear when the underlying cause is corrected. If your diet is ironclad, it is strongly recommended that you visit the nearest clinic where your doctor can run a test known as ESR (erythrocyte sedimentation rate) to detect inflammation of the body. The lack of vitamin B12 or folic acid can be easily countered by increasing the intake of foods with high content of these minerals. Recommended food items would include apples, asparagus, broccoli, parsley and raisins.
Increased Destruction of Red Blood Cells
An increase in the destruction of red blood cells can be caused by both acquired and inherited conditions. This may occur when red blood cells warp their energy metabolism to incite pre-mature destruction. Deficiencies in certain ions in the body such as glucose-6 phosphate can also cause anemia.
Treatment for such cases is mostly given in relation to each individual due to the high heredity factor involved. In some cases, the removal of the spleen may provide a cure. Adrenal steroids may be prescribed if the anemia is due to the presence of antibodies. Do consult your family doctor for more information.
Sickle Cell Anemia
Usually a heredity disease, sickle cell anemia causes abnormalities in the shape of the red blood cells and the haemoglobin. Under the microscope, these infected red blood cells are shaped like a crescent and seem wilted, hence the given name. Cells infected with this disease do not have the biconcave shape associated with other red blood cells. Due to its decreased surface area, oxygen cannot be transported efficiently to the tissues and organs. Prolonged condition without treatment may result in pain and organ damage.
Most sickle cell anemia patients undergo routine blood transfusions to simulate the natural production of more red blood cells by the bone marrow. In other cases, a bone marrow transplant is given if a compatible donor is found.
People who have the sickle trait in their family are usually advised to seek genetic counseling before pregnancy to diagnose the presence of the disease in their newborn child.
Polycythemia Vera affects the bone marrow, causing an overproduction in red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. It is seen more frequently in men above the age of 45. Its cause is relatively unknown though if untreated might lead to further complications such as leukemia. The increase in the number of red blood cells produced increases the viscosity of the blood, causing it to clot very easily. Abnormal clot formations are highly dangerous in the blood as they might block blood flow resulting in a cardiac arrest or heart attack. Common symptoms include headache, dizziness, itchiness, red coloration of the skin and shortness of breath.
Treatment aims at reducing the exceedingly high number of red blood cells to prevent thrombosis and clotting. Phlebotomy is often used to treat such cases. In phlebotomy, a pint of blood is removed from the patient’s body every week and it is continued till it is not necessary. Chemotherapy using radiation might be used by the doctor to suppress the bone marrow.
Lymphocytopenia is an abnormally low blood count in the bloodstream. Lymphocytopenia may result from various diseases and conditions varying with the individual. Brief contact with the disease might occur with severe stress or treatments involving radiation (i.e. chemotherapy).
Lymphocytes are responsible for the secretion of antibodies against foreign particles and micro-organisms. These antibodies may either destroy the particles or cause them to coagulate forming a larger mass that can be easily recognized and eliminated via phagocytosis, or the engulfing and ingestion of foreign matter by our white blood cells.
A lack of lymphocytes in our body would therefore directly correspond to a decrease in the efficiency of the immune system and coagulation of foreign particles. This leaves our body susceptible to infections and diseases.
Treatment varies greatly with the cause of the disease. In cases where lymphocytopenia is a result of the taking of a new drug, the disorder will usually go away a couple of days after the individual has stopped the consumption of the drug. AIDS patients are usually given drugs such as AZT (zidovudine) or ddI (didanosine) which can help increase the count of the white blood cells.
Eosinophilia is the exact opposite of lymphocytopia where there is an over-production in the number of white blood cells present in the bloodstream. Eosinophilia itself is not a disease but instead a disorder that results from an over-active response to a disease by the immune system in an attempt to destroy the foreign organism.
Eosinophils in the bloodstream release toxic substances that can kill foreign particles and micro-organisms in the body. If acute, this disease may further degenerate into a more complex disorder known as the Idiopathic Hypereosinophilic Syndrome.
This syndrome is commonly amongst elderly men and may seriously damage many internal organs such as the heart, lungs, liver, kidney and the skin. Heart attacks may result possibility of blood clots forming and malfunctioning the heart valves.
Eosinophilia, if left untreated, can prove to be extremely dangerous for the individual with most dying within 2 years of contracting the disease. However, the success rate of treatment is also extremely high, with more than 80% of the patients still surviving. A cocktail of drugs may be given with prednisone or hydroxyurea. However, doctors must be certain that the eosinophilia was not a consequence of a parasitic infection or an allergic reaction.
Leukemia is a harmful disease of White Blood Cells (leukocytes), which have a main role in the body's protection from disease. It's a type of cancer that infects the bone marrow and other blood-forming tissues all over the body.
How does Leukemia affect the body ?
Nobody knows the cause of Leukemia, but it seems to be related to a failure of the developing leukocytes to mature. The regular mature leukocytes can not reproduce and are replaced at the end of their lives. However, leukemic cells have the ability to reproduce but they don't have the ability to develop sufficiently to act like the normal leukocytes against infection. With the progress of Leukemia, the leukemic cells replace the regular leukocytes, leaving the patient completely vulnerable to infection.
Types of Leukemia
Leukemia could chronic or acute, it can be found in several forms, which are classified depending on the type of leukocyte affected. Usually, lymphocytes and polymorphonuclear leukocytes are the types to be involved in Leukemia.
There are two main forms of acute Leukemia, acute lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) and acute myeloblastic Leukemia (AML). ALL affects lymphocytes and occurs more often in Children. AML affects the cells that form polymorphonuclear leukocytes and is more common in adults, although it can occur at any age.
Both forms of acute leukemia have the same symptoms:
Sudden High Fever
Hard throat infection
Nosebleeds may occur
Bruising under the skin, fatigue and pain in the joints
In some cases, the appearance of symptoms is slower, with laze, anemia and increasing weakness.
There are two main forms of chronic Leukemia, chronic myeloid Leukemia (CML) and chronic lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL). CML affects immature polymorphonuclear leukocytes and usually occurs after 35 years of age. CLL affects lymphoid tissue and lymphatic cells and usually occurs in men over the age of 50.
The symptoms of both forms of chronic Leukemia are similar. The onset is usually slow.
Increasing fatigue, laze and weakness
Loss of weight and loss of appetite
The course of the illness is slow and may last for several years without causing major problems. However, there may be various complications, such as anemia, bleeding under the skin, recurrent fever or the formation of nodules and ulcers under the skin.
How is Leukemia Diagnosed ?
The specific diagnosis of Leukemia requires a blood count and a bone marrow biopsy. Leukemia is confirmed by the presence of large numbers of abnormal leukocytes in cells in the bone marrow. With the chronic leukemias, the patient may be unaware of the disease, and a diagnosis is often made only when the patient is examined for another reason, such as during a routine checkup or before surgery.
The treatment of both acute and chronic Leukemia is nearly the same, but it depends on varying factors involved in each case. The aim of treatment is to suppress the reproduction of leukemic cells. Usually, Cytotoxic Drugs are used for this purpose because this type of drugs prevents cell multiplication, also, the rapidity-driving leukemic cells are respond more to this drug that normal leukocytes do. Acute Leukemia is usually treated using many cytotoxic drugs together. Only a certain hormone and one or two cytotoxic drugs need to be used to maintain the improvement. With the chronic Leukemia, cytotoxic drugs may be used. In some cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.
Leukopenia is the significant reduction in the number of blood neutrophils, although a reduced number of lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, or basophils may also contribute to the decreased total cell count. Such a reduction would constitute <4000 cells per microliter.
What causes Leukopenia?
Primary causes of this disease include the extensive neutrophil use or the reduction in the number of neutrophils produced in the blood. In medical terminology, the disease could be acute (lasting for a couple of days) to chronic (lasting months/years). Leukopenia has been scientifically proven to be related to heredity and some races have been known to be more susceptible to the disease than others.
Secondary causes of Leukopenia could be stimulated by drugs generating an allergic reaction (immune, toxic or hypersensitivity) by the body. Certain variants of the disease are air-borne and can be passed on through the atmosphere. Due to the nature of the secondary causes, practitioners generally agree that it goes back to the basis of the individual body system and can vary amongst people.
Symptoms of Leukopenia
If the Leukopenia experienced is mild, patients usually will have their immune systems intact and will hardly realize the symptoms at all. However, serious cases can lead to oral ulcers, stomatitis, pneumonias and liver abscesses.
Practitioners will usually prescribe steroids or vitamins to stimulate the bone marrow into producing more neutrophils. Other more complicated forms of therapy such as Cytonine therapy and chemotheraphy are also commonly used.
In more extreme cases, the patient will be prescribed with a cocktail of drugs suiting the situation. Please do check with your doctor before purchasing drugs for this purpose.
Haemophilia is a heredity disease that tends to only affect males. There are many types of haemophilia. Some individuals experience life-threatening bleeding due to simple surgeries such as a tooth extraction or circumcision. Haemophilia can also be traced to be one of the root causes to internal bleeding where visible signs of bruising on the body can be observed.
If left untreated, it could prove life-threatening to the individual and a small bump on the head could cause bleeding in the skull and cause brain damage. Diagnosis for haemophilia can be done through laboratory tests to confirm the extremely slow coagulation of blood.
People with this gene abnormality are advised to stay away from situations that may provoke bleeding. Dental extractions should not be carried out unless absolutely necessary and even then, special drugs must be administered to ensure aid in the coagulation of blood. Plasma concentrates are given to patients suffering from this disease and the dose is adjusted according to the individual’s needs.
In children, clotting factors are usually introduced periodically via a healthy donor’s blood. Mental and family support is extremely important to prevent further complications. Please consult your nearby family practitioner for more information.
Christmas disease is a derivate of haemophilia and is often known to many of as haemophilia B. Christmas disease though similar in nature to haemophilia, has many obvious differences especially in the type of treatment administered since the coagulation factors affected are different. The Christmas disease is a deficiency in the factor IX while the more common haemophilia is a deficiency in the factor VII.
Treatment for Christmas Disease involves the usage of globulin which is involved in the clotting process. Now with genetic engineering a reality, recombinant versions some of the coagulation factors can be reproduced and introduced into the patient’s body, hence reducing the risk of an infection or rejection if animal plasma was used a method of treatment like in the past.
Immune Thrombocytopenic Purpura (ITP)
The immune thrombocytopenic purpura, or ITP, is related to a disorder in the immune system. The normal proteins that are found on the blood platelets are recognized by the immune system as antigens or foreign particles to the body. This signals the white blood cells to produce an antibody against the platelets. The antibodies bind to the platelets and eventually the platelets are mistakenly destroyed by through phagocytosis and blood platelet count decreases.
Platelet productions in ITP patients are significantly lesser as compared to the average human being. Autoantibody production by either the spleen or the bone marrow itself can trigger of ITP. Obvious symptoms include the formation of purplish patches or tiny red dots on the skin.
As antibodies are produced in the spleen to “counter” the blood platelets, most practitioners would remove the spleen in a process known as splenectomy. This has proven to be an effective method for many patients. ITP may also be a result of a drug-use in which the standard procedure would be to discontinue the drug usage before deciding if further treatment is necessary.
In certain cases, practitioners have been known to give blood transfusion to patients. However, unless absolutely necessary, it is seldom performed for fear of over-treatment that may harm the body.
Blood poisoning is usually a complication of an infection where the foreign particle involved escapes into the bloodstream. The antibodies secrete toxins that impede the foreign particle in the blood resulting in slower blood flow to the tissues. This will explain symptoms of chills and fever.
If not properly treated, blood poisoning could possibly evolve into acute septicemia. Blood poisoning occurs most frequently amongst people who have just undergone invasive treatment or in people with weakened immune systems.
The practitioner will first either orally or intra-venously inject antibiotics into your body to fight the disease. He may drain and disinfect the infected area. However, should any complications arise, emergency treatment will be required. Professional medical treatment is essential to recovery.
Multiple Myeloma results from malignant plasma cells in the bloodstream and can be considered as a form of cancer. The disease affects the reproductive rate of the cells, causing them to reproduce indefinitely. Out of control, the cells form tumors which usually grow near the bone marrow.
The large growth of tumors around the bone marrow will interfere with the cell-production function of the marrow causing it to malfunction. There would be a shortage of cells produced by the marrow and this might lead to further complications. Insufficient red blood cells will cause anemia and lack of oxygen to tissues and organs. Insufficient blood platelets will lead to excessive bleeding from a cut or wound. A deficiency in the white blood cell count would cause a weaker immune system, leaving the body highly susceptible to diseases and foreign invasive particles.
Chemotherapy is by far the most effective of all treatment methods available to date. Anti-cancer drugs are either given or administered to the patient to destroy or suppress the growth of the tumor. Radio therapy uses x-ray beams to kill the cancerous cells. However, this may prove devastating to surrounding tissue and cells if prolonged exposure is continued. Bone marrow transplants are also common in treatment methods either by using back the individual’s own bone marrow stem cell or stem cells taken from donors. Transplants are usually done only if the patient is young because of the harmful effects that might result such as tissue rejection and the drugs taken to suppress the tissue rejection.