Does Thalassemia Affect White Blood Cells?

Yes, thalassemia does affect white blood cells. Let us see how thalassemia affects the white blood cells.

Does Thalassemia Affect White Blood Cells?

How thalassemia affects white blood cells? You must be aware by now that thalassemia causes splenomegaly. Spleen is the largest organ in the lymphatic system. It mainly performs three functions:

Filters out the damaged, abnormal, immature red blood cells.

Help the immune system to fight off the infections by detecting the organisms in the body and producing immunoglobulin and lymphocytes.

Hematopoiesis (produce blood cells) in certain conditions that affect the bone marrow.

In thalassemia the number of functional hemoglobin molecules are less and the red blood cells does not develop properly. Therefore, the number of mature red blood cells are low in your blood. The bone marrow tries to produce more mature red cells to compensate this deficiency. This cause an increase in the immature, abnormal red cells in the blood. When these cells pass through your spleen it filters out the abnormal and immature red cells, and destroy them. Due to the large number of red cells the spleen has to work harder to destroy all of those cells, this lead to spleen enlargement because of the increased workload. This is called splenomegaly. Splenomegaly can be associated with hypersplenism (an overactive spleen).

With time the spleen becomes larger and trap more red blood cells and destroy them. Hypersplenic spleen sometimes destroy white blood cells and platelets as well. This reduces the white blood cell count, which makes you more prone to infections. Also spleen might reduce the production of lymphocytes in response to infections due to the increased workload. This also causes a reduction in the white blood cells.

White blood cells are only 1% of the blood constitutes, however, it plays an important role in the body’s immune system. When there is an infection or some foreign bodies invade your body, white blood cells go to that place and destroy the infection and clears of the debris protecting you from harmful invaders. Moving along with the blood it scans the body for any infectious site and fights of the infection. Normal white blood cell count in an adult is 4000 to 11000 per microliter of blood.

There are five types of white blood cells

  • Neutrophils – most number of white blood cells are neutrophils and it helps destroy bacteria and fungus.
  • Lymphocytes – creates antibodies which helps to fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections.
  • Monocytes – helps to destroy bacteria and has a longer life span than the other white blood cells.
  • Eosinophils – fights off parasites, cancer cells and aids with allergic responses.
  • Basophils – it controls body’s immune response by creating an allergic reaction. The allergic reaction is created by the production of histamine by basophils.

White blood cells are found in high numbers in blood, lymphatic system, spleen and in other tissues.

Summary

Yes, thalassemia does affect white blood cells. These cells play an important role in the body’s immune system. Spleen filters out the damaged, abnormal, immature red blood cells and help the immune system to fights off the infections by detecting the organisms in the body and producing immunoglobulin and lymphocytes. In thalassemia the number of functional hemoglobin molecules are less and the red blood cells does not develop properly. Therefore, the number of mature red blood cells are low in your blood. This cause an increase in the immature, abnormal red cells in the blood. When these cells pass through your spleen it filters out the abnormal and immature red cells, and destroy them. Due to the large number of abnormal red cells spleen enlarges (splenomegaly) and becomes overactive (hypersplenism). Hypersplenic spleen sometimes destroy white blood cells and platelets as well. This reduces the white blood cell count, which makes you more prone to infections.

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