Blood disorders are diseases that affect blood components: 1) red blood cells, 2) white blood cells, and/or 3) platelets.
Red blood cells are disc-shaped cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to all the cells in the body White blood cells are immune cells that help the body heal, and protect itself from infections and cancerous cells that might grow into tumors or cancers of the blood. Platelets are blood elements that stick to the lining of blood vessels and help the blood to clot when bleeding from a wound.
Some common blood disorders are anemia, thalassemia, sickle cell anemia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP),pernicious anemia, hemolytic anemia, and aplastic anemia.
All of these disorders have a single commonality, mainly that individuals with these types of conditions have low numbers of red cells, white blood cells, and/or platelets.
Inflammation is necessary for our survival. Invasion by pathogens initiates inflammatory processes that attack these organisms. However, too often the “forest fire” gets out of control, and healthy cells, tissues, and organs are damaged. When the body attacks its own cells, the condition is called an autoimmune, against -oneself, response.
Thalassemia is an inherited disease in which people have abnormally low numbers of red blood cells and low hemoglobin. The hemoglobulin molecule is faulty and unable to carry its typical complement of oxygen. [Hemoglobin is a protein that helps transport oxygen throughout the body. Red blood cells also carry waste gases like carbon dioxide to the lungs where it is released and then exhaled.]
Individuals with thalassemia often suffer from inflamed blood vessels and slower blood flow in their blood vessels. Both problems put individuals at greater risk of suffering from thromboembolism. In this condition, a blood clot, an embolus, partially or totally blocks blood vessels deep in the body (deep vein thrombosis) or a clot is released that suddenly interferes with blood flow within a lung artery (pulmonary embolism), which can be fatal.
As blood clots form, an inflammatory response is triggerred to break up the clots. More inflammation results in the production of more cytokines, immune messages that affect blood clotting. Individuals with thalassemia, as with other blood disorders, typically have higher levels of inflammatory cytokines than individuals without such conditions.
It never ceases to amaze me how many health practitioners ignore the contribution of inflammatory process to diseases such as thalassemia. In blood disorders, as with most other diseases, achieving and maintaining immune inflammatory homeostasis, balance, is essential.
Being in homeostasis means that there are enough immune factors, pro-inflammatory cytokines to initiate a proper inflammatory response, and corresponding anti-inflammatory factors to limit inflammation and the damage it may cause. A delicate balance of these messages are essential.
What does one lose by moderating excessive inflammatory responses? Control inappropriate levels of inflammation, and improve the quality of life of those with blood disorders, and most other diseases.
[Please look for future posts on other blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia, pernicious anemia, and idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP)].
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