A blood cell disorder or a blood disease is a medical condition where there is a problem with different cells of the blood that include red blood cells or RBCs, white blood cells (WBCs) or platelets, which are smaller in size than other cells and are vital for formation of a clot. These three types of blood cells are produced in the bone marrow (soft tissue within the bones.)(1) The function of the red blood cells is transportation of the oxygen to all over the body.(1) The function of the white blood cells is fighting any infection in the body.(1) The role of platelets is to help with clotting of the blood.(1) Any type of Blood Cell Disease hinders the formation and function of any of these types of blood cells.
What are the Symptoms of Blood Cell Disorders/Diseases?
Symptoms of the blood diseases differ and depend on the type of blood cell that is affected. Some of the common symptoms of diseases of red blood cells include:
- shortness of breath; fatigue; rapid heartbeat; muscle weakness and difficulty in concentrating due to lack of oxygenated blood supply to the brain.
- Some of the common symptoms of diseases of white blood cells include: Fatigue; chronic or persistent infections; malaise and unexplained weight loss.
- Some of the common symptoms of diseases of platelets include: skin that bruises easily; delayed or no healing in case of any injury or wound; absence of clotting of the blood after any injury and bleeding from the gums or unexplained nosebleeds.
What are the Types of Blood Cell Disorders/Diseases?
There are various types of blood cell diseases, which have a great impact on a person’s health and these are:
Types of Red Blood Cell Disorders/Diseases
Red blood cells are the ones which are responsible for carrying the oxygen from the lungs to the organs and tissues present in the entire body. There are different types of red blood cells, which can affect both the adults and children and these are:
Anemia: Anemia is a common type of red blood cell disorder, which develops due to deficiency of iron in the blood.(2) The human body requires iron for production of hemoglobin, which is vital for helping the RBCs to transport the oxygen from the lungs to all over the body. Anemia has many types, such as:
- Pernicious Anemia: This type of anemia is an autoimmune disorder where the body is not able to absorb vitamin B-12 resulting in reduced number of RBCs.(3) Pernicious means dangerous, and it was termed that as previously there was no treatment for it and hence was often life threatening. These days treatment of pernicious anemia consists of getting B-12 injections.
- Iron Deficiency Anemia: This type of anemia develops when there is insufficient iron in the body. The symptoms are shortness of breath and tiredness as the RBCs are not carrying enough oxygen to your lungs.(4) Treatment for iron deficiency anemia consists of eating iron rich foods and iron supplementation.
- Aplastic Anemia: This is a rare, but serious form of anemia where the bone marrow does not produce sufficient new blood cells.(5) Aplastic anemia can develop slowly or abruptly and can occur at any age. The symptoms of Aplastic anemia are tiredness and uncontrolled bleeding or the inability to fight any infections.
- Sickle Cell Anemia:(6) This type of anemia is named because the red blood cells affected by this disease are shaped like a sickle. The cause of this is genetic mutation due to which the RBCs of patients suffering from sickle cell anemia have abnormal hemoglobin molecules resulting in its curved and rigid shape. Due to this sickle-shape of the red blood cells, they are not able to carry enough of oxygen to the body as normal shaped red blood cells can. The sickle-shaped red blood cells can also get stuck in the blood vessels and block the blood circulation to the organs resulting in more problems.
- Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AHA):(7) This type of anemia causes the immune system of the body to destroy red blood cells at a rapid pace before they can be replaced resulting in extremely less number of RBCs.
- Thalassemia:(8) A group of inherited blood disorders is termed as Thalassemia. Genetic mutations are the cause of these disorders, which prevent the normal production of hemoglobin. When there is insufficient hemoglobin in the red blood cells, then the body does not get enough oxygen resulting in disruption in the functioning of the organs. Thalassemia can result in: heart problems; enlarged spleen; bone deformities and developmental and growth delays in children.
- Polycythemia Vera:(9) This is a blood cancer caused by mutation in the genes which causes excessive manufacturing of red blood cells by the bone marrow. This results in thickening of the blood and slow blood circulation increasing the risk for blood clots, which can further increase the risk for strokes and heart attacks. Polycythemia Vera has no known cure and its treatment consists of medication and phlebotomy, which is removing the blood from the veins.
Types of White Blood Cell Disorders/Diseases
Leukocytes or white blood cells help in defending the body against foreign substances and infection. The diseases or disorders of white blood cells can affect the immune response of the body and the ability of the body to fight infections. Both children and adults can be affected with white blood cell disorders.
- Leukemia:(10) This is a blood cancer where there is multiplication of the malignant white blood cells within the bone marrow. Leukemia may be chronic or acute. Chronic leukemia is slow to develop and spread.
- Lymphoma: (11) This is also a blood cancer, which develops in the lymphatic system of the body. Lymphoma occurs when the WBCs start changing and growing uncontrollably. The two major types of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
- Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS):(12) This blood disease affects the white blood cells within the bone marrow, where there is excessive production of immature cells, known as blasts, which multiply and push out healthy and mature cells. Myelodysplastic syndrome can progress quite fast or slowly and in some cases lead to leukemia.
Types of Platelet Disorders/Diseases
Blood platelets are like the first responders in case of emergency;(14) like when you suffer from any injury or cut, the blood platelets rush to the site of the injury forming a temporary plug (clot) to stop the bleeding. When suffering from a platelet disorder, it means that the blood is suffering from one of the three abnormalities that are:
- Excessive Platelets: If there is excessive number of platelets in the blood, then there is increased tendency and risk for formation of blood clots and blocking a vital major artery resulting in heart attack or stroke.
- Insufficient Platelets: When there are very less platelets then it becomes quite fatal as even a minor cut or injury can cause severe blood loss.
- Incorrect Clotting of Platelets: If the platelets are not formed properly, then they cannot stick to the walls of the blood vessels or other blood cells and can’t clot properly. This can result in fatal blood loss.
Platelet disorders are primarily inherited, that is they are genetic and some of the platelet disorders are:
- Hemophilia:(14) One of the better known blood clotting disorder is hemophilia, which affects most of the males. Excessive and prolonged bleeding is a very serious complication of hemophilia. This bleeding can occur either outside or within your body.
- Von Willebrand Disease: (15) The most common inherited bleeding disorder is Von Willebrand disease which is caused by lack of a glycoprotein known as von Willebrand factor, which is responsible for clotting of the blood. The person suffering from hemophilia can start bleeding without any reason. Desmopressin is a hormone used for treating mild type A hemophilia and it works by encouraging the release of reduced clotting factor. For treating type B and C hemophilia infusions of plasma or blood is done.
- Primary Thrombocythemia: (16) This is a rare blood disorder where there is excessive blood clotting thus increasing the risk for heart attack or stroke. Primary thrombocythemia develops when there is increased production of platelets by the bone marrow.
- Acquired Platelet Function Disorders: (17, 18) There are certain medical conditions and medications, which can affect how the platelets behave or function. It is important tell your doctor of what medicines you are taking before starting on any new medicine. The following drugs can potentially affect the functioning of the platelets, more so if they are taken for a prolonged period of time: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs); aspirin; antihistamines; antidepressants; anesthetics; heart drugs; blood thinners and certain antibiotics.(18)
Types of Plasma Cell Disorders/Diseases
There are many medical conditions, which affect the plasma cells, which are a form of white blood cells in the body responsible for producing antibodies. Plasma cells are vital for the body to fight any disease and infections.
Plasma Cell Myeloma:(19) This is a rare blood cancer, which occurs in the plasma cells of the bone marrow. The cancerous plasma cells gather in the bone marrow and form plasmacytomas (tumors) commonly in bones, such as the ribs, hips or spine. These abnormal plasma cells generate monoclonal (M) proteins, which are the abnormal antibodies that accumulate in the bone marrow and push out the healthy proteins. All this causes damage to the kidney and blood thickening. The cause of plasma cell myeloma is not known.
How is the Diagnosis of Blood Cell Disorders/Diseases Made?
Blood Cell Disorders are diagnosed with various blood tests to see the number of all the types of blood cells the patient has. A bone marrow biopsy is also done to look for development of any abnormal cells in the bone marrow.
How is Blood Cell Disorders/Diseases Treated?
The treatment of blood cell diseases is done according to the patient’s age, illness, and the general health of the patient. A combination of different treatments is used to treat the blood cell disorder and includes:
- Medications: In case of a platelet disorder, medications such as romiplostim (Nplate) are prescribed to trigger the bone marrow for producing increased platelets. For treating anemia caused by any deficiencies, dietary supplements, such as vitamin B-9 or B-12 and iron are prescribed. Antibiotics are prescribed for treating white blood cell disorders for fighting infections.
- Surgery: Surgery for treating blood cell disorder includes bone marrow transplants to replace or repair the damaged bone marrow. This procedure consists of transplanting the stem from a donor to the patient’s body to help the bone marrow to produce normal blood cells. Another treatment option is blood transfusion of healthy blood from donor so the damaged or lost blood cells can be replaced.
Both of these surgical procedures need a certain criteria for them to be successful. The donors of bone marrow must be a close match to the genetic profile of the patient. For transfusing of blood, the donor must have a compatible blood type with the patient.
What is the Prognosis of Blood Cell Disorders/Diseases?
The prognosis of blood cell disorders depends on the type of condition the patient has. Early diagnosis and treatment of blood cell disorders is one of the best methods for good prognosis and for living a healthy life as much as possible with a blood cell disorder.