Blood is a tissue in our body that is responsible for delivering oxygen and nutrients to all cells in the body.
In addition, it collects waste substances to take them to the place where they will be eliminated and transports the cells of the immune system so that we can fight infections.
Therefore, that the blood is in an optimal state of health is essential for the rest of the organs and tissues of the body to function and for us not to develop serious disorders.
In any case, like any other living tissue, blood is susceptible to various disorders that, given its distribution throughout the body, will have consequences for the health of the entire organism.
In today’s article we will talk about the most common hematological diseases, analyzing their causes, symptoms and available treatments.
What is a hematological disease?
A hematological disease is any disorder that affects any of the components of the blood , preventing this tissue from working as it should and causing problems in other organs and tissues of the body.
Blood is made up of a liquid part and a solid part. The liquid part makes up more than half of the blood and consists of plasma, a medium that contains water, salts, and proteins and that allows blood to flow through blood vessels.
The solid part is made up of blood cells, that is, red blood cells (carry oxygen), white blood cells (all those cells of the immune system) and platelets (coagulate blood when there is an injury to prevent blood loss). ).
Any of these components may not be in optimal conditions due to genetic errors (often hereditary), a mineral deficiency in the diet (usually iron), problems in the absorption of vitamins and nutrients, vitamin deficiencies (in especially B12), to the production of antibodies against the body’s own blood cells or to certain respiratory problems or allergies.
At the moment in which, due to any of these factors, the blood cannot function as it should, we speak of hematological disease.
What are the most common blood diseases?
Blood disorders affect red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, or even plasma . This leads to some diseases that are usually serious. Here are some of the most common.
Thalassemia is a blood disease that affects red blood cells . It is a hereditary disorder (genetic error that passes from parents to children) characterized by a low production of red blood cells, which leads to anemia.
This means that the body does not have enough hemoglobin, a protein responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. Thalassemia usually causes paleness, weakness and fatigue, facial bone deformities, dark-colored urine, abdominal swelling, slow growth, etc.
Treatment for thalassemia depends on how severe it is, and since there is no cure as it is a genetic disorder, the most common options are blood transfusion or bone marrow transplant.
Iron deficiency anemia
Iron deficiency anemia is a blood disease in which the problem in the red blood cells is not due to a genetic error that causes them not to be produced, but because the body does not have enough iron, so the red blood cells do not they are healthy
That is why it is so important to include iron in the diet, as it is an essential mineral to form red blood cells. The symptoms are the same as those of thalassemia, although, as we have seen, the cause is different.
As it is not caused by a genetic defect, it is possible to cure it. It can be due either to a deficiency of iron in the diet or to the difficulty in absorbing it. Be that as it may, treatment consists of including iron-rich foods in the diet or taking supplements.
Leukemia is a type of cancer that develops in the blood . Although there are different types, most of them affect white blood cells. It is one of the most common cancers, with more than 430,000 new cases diagnosed each year.
The causes are not very clear, although it is known that there are certain risk factors: smoking, having previously undergone cancer treatments, exposure to specific chemical compounds, genetic disorders, family history…
The most common symptoms of leukemia are the following: fever, weakness and fatigue, appearance of red spots on the skin, recurrent infections, nose bleeds, chills, weight loss, appearance of bruises, bone pain, etc.
The treatment will depend on the state of the disease and the person’s state of health.
Hemophilia is a blood disease in which the blood totally or partially loses its ability to coagulate , because the person does not have enough coagulation proteins. The cause is usually genetic.
The quickest way to detect hemophilia is if the person is bleeding for a long time after a small injury. The most common symptoms of hemophilia are: excessive bleeding after a cut, bleeding without an apparent cause, blood in the urine and/or stool, bruising, nosebleeds, joint pain…
The treatment consists of replacement therapy for coagulation proteins that are not available.
Leukopenia is a blood disease in which the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) is lower than normal . Therefore, it is a disorder characterized by an affectation of the production of cells of the immune system.
Being in too low a number, the body cannot properly fight attacks from bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites. Depending on whether it only affects a specific immune cell or several, the severity of the disease will be greater or lesser.
In any case, the most typical symptoms include: recurrent infections, malaise, weakness and fatigue, intense headache, vertigo and dizziness, frequent fever, mood swings, etc.
Treatment depends on the type of leukopenia suffered, that is, which immune cells are most affected. However, most therapies are focused on stimulating the bone marrow with drugs to help it produce white blood cells.
Thrombocytopenia is a blood disease characterized by a low count of platelets (thrombocytes), the cells that allow blood to coagulate and stop bleeding.
The cause is usually leukemia or other disorders of the immune system, although the genetic factor continues to be important. It can also be a side effect of the administration of certain medications.
Since coagulation is also affected, the symptoms are similar to those of hemophilia, although in this case it is not due to a lack of coagulation proteins, but directly to a low production of platelets. In addition to the symptoms of hemophilia, the person suffers from unusually heavy menstrual bleeding and petechiae (small grouped points of blood) appear, especially on the legs.
Thrombocytopenia is not usually a serious disorder. In any case, it can be treated by solving the cause that caused it (if it was a side effect of a medication, if it was due to a weakened immune system, etc.) or by performing blood transfusions.
Hemochromatosis is the opposite case of anemia . It is a disease that arises because of too high an amount of iron in the body. It appears because of excessive absorption of this mineral, something that is toxic.
It is usually an inherited disorder, although it can sometimes be due to a complication of other blood diseases such as thalassemia or anemia.
When there is too much iron in the blood, the body decides to start storing it in other organs and tissues. At this time the typical symptoms appear: stomach pain, joint pain, weakness and fatigue, etc.
However, problems come when iron accumulates in the liver, heart and pancreas, as complications such as kidney failure, heart disease or diabetes can arise. Therefore, hemochromatosis endangers the person’s life.
Treatment usually consists of regular blood draws, a therapy called phlebotomy that helps reduce the amount of iron circulating through it. Also, people with this disorder should avoid excessive consumption of iron-rich products.
Venous thrombosis is a condition in which a blood clot (thrombus) forms in one or more veins in the body, usually in the legs. This disorder is usually due to suffering from some other disease related to the ability of blood to coagulate.
The most common symptoms of thrombosis are the following: pain in the legs, cramps, inflammation, sensation of heat in the leg, redness of the area, appearance of spots…
It is potentially serious as the thrombus can break loose and travel through the bloodstream and reach the heart, causing a heart attack.
The treatment consists of the administration of drugs that relieve pain and inflammation and anticoagulants that eliminate the thrombus.