Categories: Oncology

Blood Disorders – Types & Treatment

There are different types of blood disorders. Broadly, they are categorized based on the various components in blood – red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Yet, another blood disorder involves blood proteins that are integral in the clotting of blood. While some blood disorders don’t even require treatment, some others require extensive and prolonged treatment. Some blood disorders are benign or non-cancerous whereas some others are types of blood cancer. Naturally, the treatment of blood disorders differs from one another.

Let’s look at various types of blood disorders and the treatments that are suggested for persons with these blood disorders.

Anemia: Caused by the lack of iron in the blood, which is integral to the production of hemoglobin. Anemia is one of the most common blood disorders. There are different types of anemia. Listed below are some of the most common types of anemia and their treatment.

  • Iron-deficiency anemia

Caused by low iron intake, blood loss during menstruation, or due to ulcers or cancer. It causes extreme fatigue and breathlessness because a lack of iron prevents red blood cells from carrying enough oxygen to the lungs.

Treatment: Though the condition can be treated with iron pills, in certain cases blood transfusion would be required.

  • Chronic diseases-related anemia

This is a condition seen in people with diseases such as Chronic Kidney Disease.

Treatment: Though it doesn’t require treatment normally, in certain cases injection of a synthetic hormone to stimulate the growth of red blood cells is prescribed. Yet another mode of treatment is blood transfusion.

  • Pernicious anemia

When the body cannot absorb enough of B-12 vitamin from the food, it leads to pernicious anemia. This autoimmune condition is called ‘pernicious’ because there was no cure to it and it was often fatal.

Treatment: The intake of high doses of B-12 vitamin is the prescribed treatment for the condition.

  • Aplastic anemia

The condition can be caused by a host of reasons including pregnancy, Hepatitis, HIV, side effects of certain medications/chemotherapy, etc. Under this condition, the bone marrow stops making enough blood cells. It results in feeling tired, uncontrolled bleeding and inability to resist infections.

Treatment: Aplastic anemia is treated with medication, blood transfusion, and in advanced cases with a bone marrow transplant.

  • Thalassemia

It’s the collective name for a group of inherited blood disorders that are caused by genetic mutations. The lack of hemoglobin, a key characteristic of the disease, prevents oxygen from reaching all parts of the body, and hinders the proper functioning of organs. The symptoms include an enlarged spleen, heart problems, and growth and developmental delays in children.

Treatment: Thalassemia doesn’t always warrant medication. When complications occur, regular blood transfusion is suggested.

  • Sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic condition and if not treated on time can get fatal. The name is derived from the sickle-shaped blood cells. The affected cells cannot carry enough oxygen to the tissues. They also get stuck in the blood vessels, blocking blood to the organs. Some of the symptoms include bouts of pain, frequent infections, delayed growth, and vision problems.

Treatment: Bone marrow transplant or stem cell transplant is the only treatment for the condition.

  • Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AHA)

AHA causes the immune system to destroy the red blood cells so quickly that the body cannot replace them in time. This results in having an insufficient number of red blood cells in the body causing mild fever, tiredness, headaches, dark urine, etc.

Treatment: Prompt medical treatment helps this condition.

White blood cell disorders: White blood cell disorders happen when the white blood cells are either very high, low or are not functioning properly, leading to reduced immunity to fight off infections. Listed below are some of the most common types of white blood cell disorders and their treatment.

  • Lymphoma

Occurring in the body’s lymphatic system, lymphoma is a blood cancer. The condition is caused by white blood cells changing and growing out of control. Two major types of lymphoma are Hodgkin’s lymphoma and Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Treatment: Modes of treatment for the condition are chemotherapy and radiation.

  • Leukemia:

It’s a cancer of blood-forming tissues. Of the different types of leukemia, some affect children and others are found exclusively in grownups. Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, and frequent infection.

Treatment: Chemotherapy and bone marrow transplant are the prescribed treatments.

  • Multiple myeloma

It is a type of blood cancer that forms in plasma cells. In multiple myeloma, the cancer cells accumulate in the patient’s bone marrow and damage the healthy cells. This cancer has no cure.

Treatment: However, stem cell transplant/chemotherapy can prolong life for patients.

Platelet disorders: To have a platelet disorder means to have any of the three following conditions: Not enough platelets, Too many platelets. Platelet disorders are inherited. Let’s take a look at some of the common platelet disorders:

  • ITP (Immune Thrombocytopenia):

In this condition, marrow makes enough platelets but hey are destroyed by one’s immune system leading to low platelet numbers in blood and hence bleeding manifestations.

Treatment: Mild cases require no treatment and the process is self-limited. More severe cases should be treated with medicines and respond very well.

  • Thrombasthenia:

This is usually a genetic disorder in which platelet count is normal but the platelets are not functional leading to bleeding manifestations.

Treatment: Usually involves platelet transfusions and severe cases of a bone marrow transplant.

We’ve seen some of the most common types of blood disorders and how they are treated. Treatments vary for each condition. While some of these require no treatment at all, some others demand prolonged and extensive treatment. If you think that you have the symptoms of a blood disorder, the best thing you can do about it is to get diagnosed quickly and without fail.

Dr. Sunil Bhat | Director and Clinical Lead – Bone Marrow Transplant, Haemato Oncology, Oncology, Paediatric Oncology | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra, Bangalore

Narayana Health

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