Disorders Which Affect The Blood System

As with any other system of the body, some disorders may affect the blood system. Usually these disorders are types of anemias, but there are other disorders involved.

a. Iron Deficiency Anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is due to a deficiency of elemental iron in the blood. Iron is essential for the proper functioning of hemoglobin. In iron deficiency anemia, the blood cannot transport as much oxygen. Therefore, the tissues of the body are deprived of the much-needed oxygen. Furthermore, the presence of iron deficiency anemia affects the formulation of blood cells. Treatment of iron deficiency anemia requires the administration of iron either orally or parenterally.

b. Hemolytic Anemia. Hemolytic anemia is a general term referring to anemias caused by weakened red blood cell membranes. There are several types of hemolytic anemias that are often classified according to their cause. Some of the causes of hemolytic anemia are drugs (such as primaquine or the sulfonamides), heredity, or lack of either vitamin B12 or folic acid. In hemolytic anemia, the red blood cells are weak and lyse (break apart) as they squeeze through the small capillaries or spleen. The treatment of the hemolytic anemias is obviously dependent on the particular cause. Splenectomies, discontinuance of the causative agent, or the administration of folic acid or vitamin B12 are some of the treatment possibilities.

c. Sickle Cell Anemia. Sickle cell anemia is a serious anemia that is predominant in people of black race. The erythrocytes of a person who has sickle cell anemia become sickle-shaped and, therefore, are not efficient carriers of gases or nutrients. The sickle-shaped cells also increase the viscosity of the blood that leads to decreased circulation in the small arteries and capillaries. Symptoms of sickle-cell anemia include pain of certain organs, bone and joint pain, fever, and cerebral thrombosis. The spleen is not usually enlarged. Complications associated with sickle cell anemia are leg ulcers, osteomyelitis, and occasionally, cardiac enlargement. The treatment for sickle cell anemia is usually symptomatic as the actual cause of the condition is unknown. Blood transfusions are usually involved in most treatment regimens.

d. Aplastic Anemia. Aplastic anemia is a very serious and usually fatal condition that affects about four out of every one million people. It is characterized by a progressive degeneration of the bone marrow that is rarely reversible. The usual cause appears to be toxins or drugs and excessive use of X-rays. The prognosis of this severe bone marrow depression is generally poor.

e. Hemophilia. Hemophilia is usually a hereditary disease characterized by a lack of one of the factors necessary for the clotting of the blood. Hemophilia is a disease that occurs more commonly in men than women. Patients who have hemophilia do not usually develop massive hemorrhages, but rather slow oozing or trickling of blood. The primary danger with hemophiliac patients is trauma involving severe bleeding. In these cases, the patient may soon die because of a severe loss of blood that will occur if the missing clotting factor is not soon administered.

f. Leukemia. Leukemia is a disease of the white blood cell forming tissue. It is characterized by an abnormally high white blood cell count. During the progression of the disease, the white blood cells gradually crowd out the erythrocytes and in some cases the leukocytes phagocytize (engulf) the red blood cells.

g. Mononucleosis. Mononucleosis is an extremely contagious disease characterized by an abnormally large number of one type of white blood cells (the monocytes). The disease affects the lymph tissue and is characterized by fever, sore throat, and inflamed lymph nodes. The spleen may become enlarged and lassitude (general tired feeling) on the part of the patient is not uncommon. Mononucleosis is thought to be a disease of viral origin that usually strikes people between the ages of ten and thirty-five. The treatment of mononucleosis is symptomatic. The disease usually runs its complete course in about four to six weeks.

h. Pernicious Anemia. Pernicious anemia is caused by the inability of the body to absorb vitamin B12 from the intestine. This failure to absorb vitamin B12 is caused by a lack of the intrinsic factor that is normally secreted by the parietal cells in the stomach. The presence of this intrinsic factor is needed in order to absorb vitamin B12. Perncious anemia rarely affects persons under the age of thirty-five. It is more common in persons of English, Scandinavian, and Irish descent. It may be difficult to detect this condition because there are few outwardly visible signs associated with it. As with all anemias, fatigability is usually the first noticeable symptom. The red blood cells are large and oval. The treatment of pernicious anemia centers on the parenteral administration of vitamin B12 (cyanocobalamin) which must be continued for the remainder of the patient's life.

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