Blood disorders are conditions that impact one or more parts of the blood, usually interfering with its ability to work correctly. There is a range of different types and symptoms depend on the type. However, some common symptoms include unexplained fatigue and weight loss. Most blood disorders decrease the number of cells, proteins, platelets, or nutrients in the blood, or interfere with their function.
Many blood disorders take their name from the component of the blood they impact.
Symptoms of a blood disorder
Symptoms depend on what part of the blood or organs is affected, as well as the severity and extent of the condition.
However, the majority of people with significant blood disorders tend to experience a general feeling of being unwell for no apparent reason.
Signs of white blood cell disorders include:
- frequent infections
- wounds that do not heal or are slow to heal
- unexplained exhaustion
- unexplained weight loss
Signs of red blood cell disorders include:
- unexplained exhaustion
- shortness of breath
- dizziness or light-headedness
- rapid heartbeat
- muscle weakness
- difficulty concentrating and remembering
Types of white blood cell disorders
White blood cells help the body to fight infection. They begin life in the bone marrow and develop into different types of cells, each having a different immune purpose.
The major types are:
- neutrophils, which destroy bacteria and viruses
- lymphocytes, which kill viruses and regulate the immune system
- monocytes or macrophages, which eat dead or deactivated bacteria, viruses, and fungus
- basophils and eosinophils, which help the body respond to allergic reactions and help destroy parasites
Some white blood cell disorders impact all the different types of white blood cells in the blood, while other disorders only involve one or two specific types. Of the five types of white blood cells, neutrophils and lymphocytes get impacted the most.
Most white blood cell disorders are either a type of cancer or proliferative disorders.
Proliferative disorders involve a rapid increase in the number of white blood cells that are circulating in the blood. This mostly occurs because of an infection, although, occasionally, bone marrow cancers may be responsible.
Leukopenia, however, is due to a reduction in the amount of circulating white blood cells. Leukopenia usually occurs because of:
- toxin exposure
- certain medications, such as corticosteroids or chemotherapy medications
- genetic mutations
There are three major types of blood cancer that impact white blood cells, and they include the following: