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Types of Blood Disorders

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Blood Disorders Affecting Red Blood Cells continued...

Sickle cell anemia: A genetic condition that affects mostly African-Americans. Periodically, red blood cells change shape, and block blood flow. Severe pain and organ damage can occur.

Polycythemia vera: The body produces too many blood cells, from an unknown cause. The excess red blood cells usually create no problems but may cause blood clots in some people.

Malaria: A mosquito's bite transmits a parasite into a person's blood, where it infects red blood cells. Periodically, the red blood cells rupture, causing fever, chills, and organ damage. This blood infection is most common in Africa; those traveling to Africa are at risk and should take preventive measures. Malaria was eradicated from the U.S. in the 1940s.

Blood Disorders Affecting White Blood Cells

Blood disorders that affect white blood cells include:

Lymphoma : A form of blood cancer that develops in the lymph system. In lymphoma, a white blood cell becomes malignant, multiplying and spreading abnormally. Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma are the two major groups of lymphoma. Treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation can extend life with lymphoma, and sometimes cure it.

Leukemia: A form of blood cancer in which a white blood cell becomes malignant and multiplies inside bone marrow. Leukemia may be acute (rapid and severe) or chronic (slowly progressing). Chemotherapy and/or stem cell transplantation (bone marrow transplant) can treat leukemia, and sometimes result in a cure.

Multiple myeloma: A blood cancer in which a white blood cell called a plasma cell becomes malignant. The plasma cells multiply and release damaging substances that eventually cause organ damage. Multiple myeloma has no cure, but stem cell transplant and/or chemotherapy can allow people to live for years with the condition.

Myelodysplastic syndrome: A family of blood cancers that affect the bone marrow. Myelodysplastic syndrome often progresses very slowly, but may suddenly transform into a severe leukemia. Treatments usually include blood transfusions and chemotherapy. Stem cell transplant can sometimes cure younger people with myelodysplastic syndrome.

Blood Disorders Affecting Platelets

Blood disorders that affect the platelets include:

Thrombocytopenia : A low number of platelets in the blood. Numerous conditions cause thrombocytopenia; most do not result in abnormal bleeding.

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