Are Blood Cell Disorders?
A blood cell disorder is a condition in which there’s a problem
with your red blood cells, white blood cells, or the smaller, circulating cells
called platelets, which are critical for clot formation. All three cell types
form in the bone marrow, which is the soft tissue inside your bones. Red blood
cells transport oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues. White blood cells
help your body fight infections. Platelets help your blood to clot. Blood cell
disorders impair the formation and function of one or more of these types of
Are the Symptoms of Blood Cell Disorders?
Symptoms will vary depending on the type of blood cell disorder.
Common symptoms of red blood cell disorders are:
concentrating from lack of oxygenated blood in the brain
Common symptoms of pediatric white blood cell disorders are:
or a general feeling of being unwell
Common symptoms of platelet disorders are:
or sores that don’t heal or are slow to heal
that doesn’t clot after an injury or cut
that bruises easily
nosebleeds or bleeding from the gums
Are the Types of Blood Cell Disorders?
There are many types of blood cell disorders that can drastically
affect your overall health.
Red Blood Cell Disorders
Anemia is one type of red blood cell disorder. A lack of the
mineral iron in your blood usually causes this disorder. Your body needs iron
to produce the protein hemoglobin, which helps your red blood cells carry
oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.
Sickle cell anemia (SCA) is a type of anemia that draws its
name from the unusual sickled shape of the affected red blood cells. A normal
red blood cell is shaped like a disc, but due to a genetic mutation, the red
blood cells of people with sickle cell anemia contain abnormal hemoglobin
molecules and so are rigid and curved. The sickle-shaped red blood cells can’t carry
as much oxygen to your tissues as normal red blood cells can. They may also
become stuck in your blood vessels, blocking blood flow to your organs.
SCA is an inherited disease that passes down to children if both
parents have the condition. It’s most common among African-Americans.
Blood platelets are the first responders when you have a cut or
other injury. They gather at the site of the injury, creating a temporary plug
to stop blood loss. If you have a platelet disorder, such as von Willebrand
disease, your blood doesn’t have enough platelets, contains too many platelets,
or contains platelets that don’t clot correctly.
Having too few platelets is quite dangerous because even a small
injury can cause serious blood loss. If you have too many platelets in your
blood, blood clots can form and block a major artery, causing a stroke or heart
attack. Sometimes, deformed platelets can’t stick to other blood cells or the
walls of your blood vessels and so can’t clot properly. This can also lead to a
dangerous loss of blood.
Pediatric White Blood Cell Disorders
These disorders affect the white blood cells of children. They
occur when the bone marrow produces too many or too few white blood cells. When
there aren’t enough white blood cells, the body can’t fight off infections. Too
many white blood cells, known as “a high white blood cell count,” can indicate
the presence of leukemia, certain infections, or conditions such as measles or
whooping cough. Rarely, a bone marrow disease or autoimmune condition, which
occurs when your body attacks its own cells, can lead to the production of too
many white blood cells.
Causes Blood Cell Disorders?
Blood cell disorders may be the result of disease. They may also
be hereditary, or inherited from parents. For example, an iron deficiency due a
lack of iron in the diet or problems with absorbing iron can result in your
body not being able to produce enough red blood cells. A genetic condition,
such as polycythemia vera, can cause it to produce too many.
If you have an autoimmune disease, such as lupus, your immune
system may destroy your own blood platelets. This will hamper your body’s
ability to stop episodes of bleeding.
Low or compromised white blood cells are due to infections that
destroy or overwhelm them. Some health conditions destroy white blood cells
faster than the bone marrow can produce them. Your body may also increase its
production of white blood cells to fight a disease or infection.
Is at Risk for Blood Cell Disorders?
You or your child may be at risk for red blood cell disorders if
you have low blood iron levels. You may be at risk for white blood cell
disorders if you have a serious infection or autoimmune disease. A family
history of blood cell disorders puts you at a higher risk of having one.
Are Blood Cell Disorders Diagnosed?
Your doctor may order several tests, including a complete blood
count (CBC) to see how many of each type of blood cell you have. Your doctor
may also order a bone marrow biopsy to see if there are any abnormal cells
developing in your marrow. This will involve removing a small amount of bone
marrow for testing.
Are the Treatment Options for Blood Cell Disorders?
Your treatment plan depends on the stage of your illness, your
age, and your overall health status. Your doctor may use a combination of
treatments to help correct your blood cell disorder.
For platelet disorders, medications such as Nplate (romiplostim)
can treat clotting problems. For white blood cell disorders, antibiotics can
help fight infections. Dietary supplements such as iron and vitamin B-9 or B-12
can treat anemia due to deficiencies. Vitamin B-9 is also called folate, and
vitamin B-12 is also known as cobalamin.
Bone marrow transplants may repair or replace damaged marrow.
These involve transferring stem cells, usually from a donor, to your body to
help your bone marrow begin producing normal blood cells. A blood transfusion
is another option to help you replace lost or damaged blood cells. During a
blood transfusion, you receive an infusion of healthy blood from a donor.
Both procedures require specific criteria to succeed. Bone marrow
donors must match or be as close as possible to your genetic profile. Blood
transfusions require a donor with a compatible blood type.
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
The variety of blood cell disorders means that your experience of
living with one of these conditions may vary greatly from someone else. Early
diagnosis and treatment are the best ways to ensure that you live a healthy and
full life with a blood cell disorder.
Different side effects of treatments vary depending on the person.
Research your options, and speak with your doctor to find the right treatment
Finding a support group or counselor to help you deal with any
emotional stress about having a blood cell disorder is also helpful.