Hematology: Symptoms and Causes

Hematology is the study of blood, blood-forming organs and blood diseases. Medically, it also refers to the treatment of blood diseases and malignancies; and is a branch that includes physiology, pathology, etiology, diagnosis, treatment prognosis, and prevention of blood disorders or diseases.

Blood disorders are conditions that affect one or more parts of the blood and disintegrating its routine functioning. These disorders impact overall body health by comprising the ability of the body to function properly. Blood disorders are often named after the component of blood they impact, such as:

Red blood cell disorders

Red blood cells are cells that are responsible for carrying the oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Some of the common red blood cell disorders are:

  • Anemia – a disorder that decreases red blood cells or is caused due to low hemoglobin. It is mostly caused because of a deficiency of iron. Types of anemia include iron deficiency anemia, pernicious anemia, aplastic anemia, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, and sickle cell anemia.
  • Thalassemia: These are inherited blood disorders caused by genetic mutations that restrict the production of haemoglobin in the body. Lack of haemoglobin hampers the circulation of oxygen in the body resulting in organ malfunction, bone deformities or even heart problems.
  • Polycythemia vera: In this type of disorder the bone marrow produces a lot of red blood cells, which causes the blood to thicken and flow slowly, increasing the risk for blood clots, heart problems, and stroke.

White blood cell disorders

White blood cells are responsible for fighting against infections and viruses. A white blood cell disorder affects the immune system of the body.

  • Lymphoma: This disorder occurs in the lymphatic system of the body where the white blood cells change and grow out of control.
  • Leukemia: In this disorder, malignant white blood cells multiply inside the bone marrow.
  • Myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS): In this disorder, the body produces a lot of immature cells in the bone marrow, which multiply further and restrict the space of mature and healthy cells. 

Platelet disorders

Platelets are responsible for healing your cuts and injuries. Platelet disorder implies either too many platelets, too few platelets or platelets that do not clot correctly.

  • Von Willebrand disease: It is a disorder that involves inherited bleeding because of a lack of protein in the body.
  • Hemophilia: This is a blood clotting disorder that causes excessive and prolonged bleeding, inside or outside the body.
  • Primary thrombocythemia: This disorder involves increased blood clotting which increases the chances of heart attack or stroke.
  • Acquired platelet disorder: Some medications if taken for too long can cause platelet disorders.

The types and symptoms of the blood disorders depend on case-to-case and more essentially on the part of blood impacted, combined with the severity and extent of the problem. Some general blood disorder symptoms include feeling a lack of energy and strength for no apparent reason.

That said, some of the general symptoms of each type of blood part affected are:

  • White blood cells disorder
  • Unexplained fatigues
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent infections
  • Slow-healing wounds
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Red blood cells disorder
  • Unexplained tiredness
  • Consistent headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Thumping heartbeat
  • Joint and muscle weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Lack of concentration
  • Affected memory
  • Platelets disorders
  • Uncontrollable bleeding
  • Failure of formation of blood clots at wounds
  • Slow healing process
  • Unexplainable bruising
  • Bleeding from nose, gums, gastrointestinal system
  • Excessive blood clotting
  • Skin rash

Not just the symptoms but the causes of blood disorders also vary by the type of blood disorder.

However, some of the most common causes of blood disorders are:

  • Genetic disorder/mutations
  • Infection
  • Toxic exposure
  • Drug side effect
  • Lack of nutrients such as iron, vitamin K, and vitamin B12
  • Prolonged usage of certain medications (such as aspirin, heart drugs, anaesthetics, antihistamines, etc.)

Blood disorders might take long to be diagnosed due to a lack of awareness of symptoms and causes. One of the best methods to avoid this is to stay abreast of your health through regular checkups and by adopting a healthy lifestyle and diet. That said, blood disorders can be diagnosed via complete blood count (CBC) to check the number of cells for each type. In cases of doubt, the doctors also suggest a bone marrow biopsy to check for the growth of any abnormal cells in the marrow. In cases of acquired blood disorders, there is no other substitute than cure through medications or surgery. Each disorder responds differently in each person; hence, only early diagnosis and attentive medical treatment can ensure a healthy life for a person with a blood disorder. Each treatment may also have some side effects, which should be discussed with the doctor at the time of consideration and making the final decision.