Just with any other disorder, blood disorders come in all shapes, sizes and severity. Some disorders are as simple as a vitamin deficiency, while others have been linked to cancer. It is important to receive a proper diagnosis to help ensure you receive the proper treatment and fully understand your limitations in life while living with the blood disorder.
Blood disorders occur when conditions in the body cause normal blood cell production to breakdown. This leaves patients with malfunctioning and unhealthy blood cells in their system. According to Leukemia and Lymphoma Research more than 5,300 people in the UK are diagnosed with rare forms of blood cancers and related conditions every year.
A group of blood disorders related to leukemia known as myeloproliferative neoplasms, are the most common blood disorders affecting approximately 3,300 people in the UK every year. In most of these cases, the blood is think and full of blood cells that are not working properly.
Blood clotting disorders
There are some conditions that can cause a person to have trouble with bleeding, including the ability to clot or not. Sometimes a blood vessel will have a blood clot develop within it without ever being cut or injured. If the clot forms within an artery that supplies blood directly to the brain and/or heart, it can cause a heart attack or stroke. A form of this is known as deep vein thrombosis, and occurs from sluggish blood flow in the leg veins.
There is a long blood disorders list, some of which are acquired and some that are hereditary. Blood clotting disorders include:
- Thrombocytopenia: Having too few platelets caused by various factors
- Haemophilia A: A genetic disorder that occurs when someone does not make factor VIII
- Vitamin K deficiency: Causes bleeding problems, but can be controlled with supplements
- Liver disorders: Some liver disorders can cause issues with clotting, since it is the source of most of our bodies clotting factors
- Von Willebrand’s disease: The most common inherited bleeding disorder that is caused by a reduced production of Von Willebrand’s factor. This factor stabilizes factor VIII and promotes normal platelet function.
- Renal disease: Causes reduce aggregation and platelet dysfunction
- Amyloidosis: Causes factor X deficiency and local infiltration of blood vessels
- Vitamin C deficiency: Can cause hemorrhaging in surgical patients
- Aging: Can cause fragile veins
Certain medicines can cause blood clotting disorders and need to be monitored closely while adjusting a patient’s medication regiment.
Blood clotting tests
There are different blood clotting tests available to help properly diagnose patients with various blood disorders. There are a variety of different tests that can be done. The type of test conducted depends upon the circumstances and the disorder the doctor is trying to confirm as a diagnosis.
According to the NHS, these are some reasons a doctor may suggest having a patient’s blood testing for clotting capabilities include:
- Bleeding does not easily stop after being cut
- Patient bruises easily
- Already diagnosed with certain liver diseases
- In preparation of surgery
- Patient develops a blood clot within a vessel for no apparent reason
- Patient is taking anticoagulant medications
Types of tests include:
- Blood count: Counts the number of red and white cells and the number of platelets per ml
- Bleeding time: Tests how long a tiny cut takes to stop bleeding
- Prothrombin Time and Activated Partial Thromboplastin Time: Tests how long blood clots take to develop when chemicals are introduced to the blood in a lab
- Tests for factor VIII
- Platelet aggregation test
Other tests to diagnose vitamin deficiencies, leukemia, liver disorders and infections that may affect the blood’s ability to clot
ITP blood disorder
According to The ITP Support Association, ITP, immune thrombocytopenia is a medical condition that affects the immune system causing a shortage of platelets and bruising. This autoimmune disease can be caused by a virus, vaccinations or by taking certain medications. For some patients, it is still unknown why they have ITP. About 3,000 to 4,000 patients are diagnosed with ITP blood disorders in the UK.
A blood test can show is a patient has ITP. If only the platelet count is low and the red and white blood cell counts look normal, the patient will be diagnoses with this blood disorder. In some prolonged cases of ITP, a bone marrow biopsy might be conducted to obtain more information about the diagnosis and possibly find why the patient has developed ITP.
ITP, unlike hemophilia, is not inherited and with proper diagnosis and treatment it can go into remission. This is because the platelets work independently as the initial plug that helps stop bleeding. Most patients with ITP show no symptoms and this disorder is only diagnoses during a routine blood test.
Rare blood disorders
According to Cancer Research UK, there are some blood disorders that are rarer than others. But that does not lessen the severity of any of the disorders. Rare disorders are not necessarily cancer related, however, due to the fact that these rare disorders can lead to cancer, the treatment for some of the following disorders are similar to those suffering from cancer.
Some rare blood disorders include:
- Childhood AML
- Chronic myelomonocytic leukemia
- Hairy cell leukemia
- Juvenile myelomonocytic leukemia
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Myeloprogliferative neoplasms
- Polycythaemia vera
Aplastic anemia is another rare blood disorder resulting in not enough blood cells being produced. Though this does not lead to cancer cells developing, it does result in the lack of healthy blood cells being produced.
Blood disorders in children
According to The ITP Support Association, children can be diagnoses with a variety of blood disorders, including ITP. Just like in adults, many pediatric patients do not show signs of ITP, it generally is discovered during routing blood tests.
Some signs and symptoms your child may have ITP or another blood disorder include:
- Takes time for blood to clot after a small cut or abrasion
- Child bruises easily
- Bruises take a long time to heal
- Bleeding of the gums
- Bleeding in urine or feces
- Prolonged bloody noses
- Child becomes sickly after blow to the head
- Persistent headache
- Prolonged vomiting and/or drowsiness
If your child is experiencing any of the above listed signs or symptoms, seek out advice from your family physician.
Blood disorders symptoms
If you are not able to tell your doctor about the possibilities of having a blood disorder, it might be difficult for him or her to give you a proper diagnosis. There are some simple things that might set off some red flags and these symptoms need to be brought to the doctor’s attention.
Some symptoms a patient might have a blood disorder include:
- Large bruises that take forever to heal
- Large bruises in an area that was never hit hard enough to cause a bruise
- Patient easily bruises
- Prolonged bleeding associated with a minor cut
- Nosebleeds that last more than 10 minutes
- Bleeding from the gums that is unrelated to brushing or gingival disease
- Prolonged bleeding after dental procedure, especially after extractions
- Postpartum hemorrhaging
- Prolonged bleeding after simple injections
- Lightheaded or continually tired (cases of severe anemia)
Other reasons to request being tested for a bleeding disorder include:
- Taking certain medications, including aspirin, anti-inflammatory drugs or warfarin
- Family history
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Extreme weight loss
- Past patient history
- Previous blood transfusion
- Renal impairment
- Strict vegan diet
If you are experiencing any of the above listed symptoms, take the time to sit down with your physician and discuss your concerns about any of the above listed blood disorders. Your doctor will be able to properly diagnose if you have the disorder or not and put you on the right treatment path.
Some blood disorders can be treated with a simple diet change or introduction of vitamins and medications. Others take more drastic approaches, such as cancer treatments and surgery. Just remember to not put off seeing your physician about your concerns, because the sooner you get a handle on the disorder, the sooner you will be able to return to a healthier life.