Blood Disorders

HCA 240 27 August 2011



Blood Disorders

Blood is a specialized body fluid. It has four main components: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets and has many different functions, including transporting oxygen and nutrients to the lungs and tissues, forming blood clots to prevent excess blood loss, and carrying cells and antibodies that fight infection. The liquid component of blood is called plasma, a mixture of water, sugar, fat, protein, and salts. The main job of the plasma is to transport blood cells throughout your body along with nutrients, waste products, antibodies, clotting proteins, chemical messengers such as hormones, and proteins that help maintain the body's fluid balance. Red cells contain a special protein called hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body and then returns carbon dioxide from the body to the lungs so it can be exhaled. Platelets help the blood clotting process (or coagulation) by gathering at the site of an injury, sticking to the lining of the injured blood vessel, and forming a platform on which blood coagulation can occur (American Society of Hematology, 2011).

Iron deficiency anemia is caused by blood loss from heavy menstrual bleeding, poor absorption of iron by the body, or too little iron in one’s diet. Lead poisoning in children can also cause iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency anemia may also be caused by poor absorption of iron in the diet, due to Celiac disease, Crohn's disease, gastric bypass surgery, and taking antacids. Anemia develops slowly after the normal iron stores in the body and bone marrow have run out. In men and postmenopausal women, anemia is usually caused by gastrointestinal blood loss from certain types of cancer (esophagus, stomach, colon), long-term use of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS), peptic ulcer disease, and ulcers (Health Central Network, 2005).



Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia are blue color to whites of the eyes, brittle nails, decreased appetite (especially in children), and fatigue. Other symptoms of iron deficiency anemia include headache, irritability, pale skin color, and shortness of breath. Sore tongue, unusual food cravings (called pica), and weakness are also iron deficiency anemia. There may be no symptoms if the anemia is mild (Health Central Network, 2005). Iron fortified diet and iron replacement in high-risk individuals are suggested to prevent iron deficiency anemia (Zelman, Tompary, Raymond, Holdaway, Mulvihill, 2010).

Sickle cell anemia is caused by an abnormal type of hemoglobin called hemoglobin S. Hemoglobin S distorts the shape of red blood cells, especially when there is low oxygen. The distorted red blood cells are shaped like crescents or sickles. These fragile, sickle-shaped cells deliver less oxygen to the body's tissues. They also can clog more easily in small blood vessels, and break into pieces that disrupt blood flow. Sickle cell anemia is inherited from both parents. One who inherits the hemoglobin S gene from one parent and normal hemoglobin (A) from the other parent will have sickle cell trait. People with sickle cell trait do not have the symptoms of true sickle cell anemia (Health Central Network, 2005).

Symptoms of sickle cell anemia usually don't occur until after age 4 months. Almost all patients with sickle cell anemia have painful episodes (crises), which can last from hours to days. These crises can affect the bones of the back, the long bones, and the chest. Some patients have one episode every few years. Others have many episodes per year. The crises can be severe enough to require a hospital stay. Common symptoms include attacks of abdominal pain, bone pain, breathlessness, delayed growth and puberty, and fatigue. Fever, jaundice, paleness, rapid



heart rate, and ulcers on the lower legs (in adolescents and adults) are also symptoms of sickle cell anemia. Other symptoms include chest pain, excessive thirst, frequent urination, painful and prolonged erection (priapism - occurs in 10 - 40% of men with the disease), poor eyesight/blindness, strokes, and skin ulcers (Health Central Network, 2005). Unfortunately, sickle cell anemia can not be prevented. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease. There is no prevention for genetics (Zelman, Tompary, Raymond, Holdaway, Mulvihill, 2010).

Thrombocytopenia is often divided into three major causes of low platelets: low production of platelets in the bone marrow, increased breakdown of platelets in the bloodstream (called intravascular), and increased breakdown of platelets in the spleen or liver (called extravascular). Although this is rare, use of certain drugs may also lead to a low production of platelets in the bone marrow. Disorders that involve low production in the bone marrow include aplastic anemia, cancer in the bone marrow, infections in the bone marrow (very rare), and myelodysplasia. Use of certain drugs may also lead to a low production of platelets in the bone marrow, although this is rare (Health Central Network, 2005).

Disorders that involve the breakdown of platelets include disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), drug-induced nonimmune thrombocytopenia, drug-induced immune thrombocytopenia, hypersplenism, immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), and thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura. Symptoms of thrombocytopenia are bruising, nosebleeds or bleeding in the mouth, and rash (pinpoint red spots called petechiae). Other symptoms may be present as well, depending on the cause of the condition. Mild thrombocytopenia can occur without symptoms (Health Central Network, 2005). Prevention of thrombocytopenia is unknown



(Zelman, Tompary, Raymond, Holdaway, Mulvihill, 2010) and dependent on the specific cause of the disease (Health Central Network, 2005).




American Society of Hematology. (2011). Blood Basics. Retrieved from

The Health Central Network, Inc. (2005). Iron Deficiency Anemia. Retrieved from

The Health Central Network, Inc. (2005). Sickle Cell Anemia. Retrieved from

The Health Central Network, Inc. (2005). Thrombocytopenia. Retrieved from

Zelman, M., Tompary, E., Raymond, J., Holdaway, P., & Mulvihill, M. (2010). Human diseases: A systemic approach (7th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

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