When something is wrong with your blood, it can affect your total health. That is why it is important for you to know about some of the common blood disorders that may affect you.
People may be affected by many different types of blood conditions and blood cancers. Common blood disorders include anaemia, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia and blood clots; and blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma.
Talking to your doctor is the first step to take if you believe you may have a blood condition. If you are diagnosed with a blood disorder, your doctor may refer you to a haematologist.
Anaemia is the most common blood disorder. When you have anaemia, your body lacks oxygen, so you may experience one or more of the following symptoms: weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, fast or irregular heartbeat, pounding or “whooshing” in your ears, headache, cold hands or feet, pale or yellow skin, and chest pain.
Many people are at risk for aanemia because of poor diet, intestinal disorders, chronic diseases, infections, and other conditions. Women who are menstruating or pregnant and people with chronic medical conditions are most at risk for this disease.
The risk of anaemia increases as people grow older. People who engage in vigorous athletic activities, such as jogging or basketball, may develop anaemia as a result of red blood cells breaking down in the bloodstream.
If you have any of the following chronic conditions, you might be at greater risk for developing anemia: rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune disease, kidney disease, cancer, liver disease, thyroid disease, and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis).
The signs and symptoms of anaemia can easily be overlooked. In fact, many people do not even realise that they have anaemia until it is identified in a blood test.
Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions that result when the blood cannot clot properly. In normal clotting, platelets stick together and form a plug at the site of an injured blood vessel. Proteins in the blood, called clotting factors, then interact to form a fibrin clot, which holds the platelets in place and allows healing to occur at the site of the injury while preventing blood from escaping the blood vessel.
While too much clotting can lead to heart attack and stroke, the inability to form clots can be very dangerous as well, as it can result in excessive bleeding.
Haemophilia is perhaps the most well-known bleeding disorder, although it is relatively rare. It affects mostly males. Many more people are affected by von Willebrand disease, the most common bleeding disorder in America. Von Willebrand disease can affect both males and females.
Who is at risk?
Bleeding disorders such as haemophilia and von Willebrand disease result when the blood lacks certain clotting factors. These diseases are almost always inherited, although in rare cases they can develop later in life if the body forms antibodies that fight against the blood’s natural clotting factors.
Individuals and pregnant women with a family history of bleeding disorders should talk to their doctors about detection and treatment. Symptoms of bleeding disorders may include easy bruising, bleeding gums, heavy bleeding from small cuts or dental work, unexplained nosebleeds and heavy menstrual bleeding.
Blood cancers affect the production and function of the blood cells. Most of these cancers start in the bone marrow where blood is produced. Stem cells in the bone marrow mature and develop into three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets.
In most blood cancers, the normal blood cell development process is interrupted by uncontrolled growth of an abnormal type of blood cell. These abnormal blood cells — or cancerous cells — prevent the blood from performing many of its functions, such as fighting off infections or preventing serious bleeding.
There are three main types of blood cancers:
Leukemia: A type of cancer found in the blood and bone marrow, is caused by the rapid production of abnormal white blood cells. The high number of abnormal white blood cells is not able to fight infection, and they impair the ability of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells and platelets.
Lymphoma: This is a type of blood cancer that affects the lymphatic system, which removes excess fluids from the body and produces immune cells. Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cells that fight infection. Abnormal lymphocytes become lymphoma cells, which multiply and collect in the lymph nodes and other tissues. Over time, these cancerous cells impair the immune system.
Myeloma: This is a type of blood cancer that specifically targets the plasma cells. Plasma cells are white blood cells that produce disease- and infection-fighting antibodies in the body. Myeloma cells prevent the normal production of antibodies, leaving the body’s immune system weakened and susceptible to infection.