Blood disorders are conditions that keep parts of your blood from doing their jobs. You may have a blood clotting disorder or a bleeding disorder. With treatment, most blood disorders become chronic illnesses that don’t affect people’s lifespans. Treatment includes managing symptoms and treating any underlying conditions.
Blood disorders are conditions that keep parts of your blood from doing their jobs:
Blood disorders may be cancerous or noncancerous. This article focuses on noncancerous blood disorders.
You may inherit a noncancerous blood disorder or develop one because you have an underlying condition that affects your blood.
Some blood disorders may not cause symptoms or require treatment. Others are chronic (lifelong) illnesses that require treatment but typically won’t affect how long you’ll live. Other blood disorders are serious illnesses that can be life-threatening.
Healthcare providers treat blood disorders by managing symptoms and treating any underlying conditions.
In general, noncancerous blood disorders are conditions that affect your blood cells and platelets and cause issues that may:
A blood clotting disorder affects your platelets or your clotting factors (coagulation factors). Clotting factors are proteins in your blood. Your platelets and clotting factors make blood clots, which control bleeding. Blood clotting disorders may be called a hypercoagulable state or thrombophilia. Blood clotting disorders include:
Some people with blood clotting orders have an increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Call 911 if you think you’re having a pulmonary embolism because you have chest pain and difficulty breathing. Heart attack and stroke are other medical conditions that need emergency treatment.
Bleeding disorders happen when your blood doesn’t clot normally, causing you to bleed more than usual. Bleeding disorders include:
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Anemia represents the most common type of noncancerous blood disorder. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 3 million people in the U.S. have some type of anemia. Anemia happens when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells. Some types of anemia are inherited, but people may also acquire or develop them.
Some types of anemia may be inherited but can also be acquired:
Blood disorder symptoms depend on the specific blood disorder and its impact on your blood.
For example, most people with anemia have the following symptoms:
The most common symptom is excessive and continuous bleeding. You may want to talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of the following symptoms:
Blood clotting disorders increase your risk of developing blood clots in your veins, lungs and other areas of your body. People with blood clotting disorders may have the following symptoms:
There’s no single cause for blood disorders. Some people inherit blood disorders. Other blood disorders happen because people develop a condition that affects their blood.
Healthcare providers will do physical examinations, ask you about your medical history and your symptoms. They may do several blood tests.
Red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to your body’s tissues. Your tissues produce energy with the oxygen and release carbon dioxide. Your red blood cells take the carbon dioxide waste to your lungs for you to exhale.
Providers will take blood samples to evaluate your red blood cell count and your red blood cell components or parts. They may do tests to see what your red blood cells look like under a microscope. Red blood cell tests may include:
White blood cells represent about 1% of your blood. They protect your body against infection. Abnormal white blood cell levels may be signs of several medical conditions.
For example, a high white blood cell count (leukocytosis) may mean you have an infection, inflammation or cancer. A low white blood cell count (leukopenia) may be a sign of conditions ranging from vitamin deficiencies to cancer.
There are three kinds of white blood cells — granulocytes, monocytes and lymphocytes. Granulocytes include three sub-types of white blood cells — eosinophils, basophils and neutrophils. Your healthcare provider may do a complete blood count (CBC) with differential to evaluate each white blood cell type:
Platelets, also called thrombocytes, help make blood clots and control bleeding. Tests to evaluate your platelet health may include:
In general, healthcare providers focus on identifying and treating underlying conditions that cause blood disorders. They also treat blood disorder symptoms. Treatments may include:
These treatments have different side effects. Ask your provider about treatment side effects. They’ll help you manage them.
That depends on the specific disorder. Some blood disorders are inherited, which means you can’t prevent them. Others are caused by underlying conditions that you may or may not be able to prevent. While you can’t always prevent blood disorders, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing complications.
Taking care of your overall health may reduce your risk of developing conditions that cause blood disorders. Suggestions include:
Noncancerous blood disorders vary widely. For example, many people with blood clotting disorders may have normal lifespans, but may require medication and treatment for the rest of their lives. But some blood disorders, like sickle cell anemia, may be life-threatening. People’s prognoses also depend on factors such as their age and overall health. If you have a blood disorder, ask your healthcare provider what you can expect.
Blood disorders may change your way of life. But there are things you can do to maintain your quality of life. For example:
Contact your healthcare provider if you notice changes in your body that may be signs your condition is getting worse.
Some noncancerous blood disorders may cause medical emergencies. People with blood clotting disorders have an increased risk of blood clots that may cause pulmonary embolism, heart attack and stroke. If you have a blood clotting disorder and have chest pain, call 911.
If you have a bleeding disorder and you’re injured, you may have trouble controlling your bleeding. If your prescribed medication doesn’t slow your blood flow, go to the emergency room.
There are many kinds of noncancerous blood disorders. If you’ve been diagnosed with one of these disorders, you may want to ask your provider the following questions:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Noncancerous blood disorders are conditions that keep your blood from doing its job. Your blood may not make blood clots to keep you from bleeding more than normal. Your blood may make clots too easily, increasing your risk of blood clots that could cause a stroke or heart attack. Often, these conditions are chronic (long-term) and require lifelong medical care. With treatment, most people with noncancerous blood disorders have a normal lifespan and good quality of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/07/2022.
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