Hematology

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About Hematology

Hematology is a medical branch that focuses on the study of blood, the blood-forming organs, and blood diseases. The term "heme" emerges from the Greek for blood.

Hematology is followed by specialists in the field who deal with the diagnosis, treatment and overall management of people with blood disorders ranging from anemia to blood cancer.

Some commonly treated diseases in hematology include:

  • Iron deficiency anaemia and other types of anemia such as sickle cell anemia or trauma-related anemia.
     
  • Polycythemia or excess production of red blood cells
     
  • Myelofibrosis
     
  • Leukemia
     
  • Platelet and bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura and Von Willebrand disease
     
  • The myelodysplastic syndromes
     
  • Hemoglobinopathies such as thalassemia and sickle cell disease
     
  • Multiple myeloma
     
  • Malignant lymphomas
     
  • Blood transfusion
     
  • Bone marrow stem cell transplantation

Hematologists work in various settings, including blood banks, pathology laboratories and private clinics. Specialists in this branch of medicine can choose to focus on specific topics within the field of hematology, such as lymphatic organs and bone marrow and may diagnose blood count irregularities or platelet irregularities. They are able to treat organs that are fed by blood cells, including the lymph nodes, spleen, thymus and lymphoid tissue.

The work of hematologists is supported by laboratory technicians who examine samples of blood and blood forming tissue, which provide information about abnormalities and issues identified in laboratory screening. A hematologist may also specialize in genetic testing if they focus on inherited blood conditions.

Hematologists working in laboratories are referred to as hematopathologists. These physicians work closely with hematologists to diagnose hematological diseases. Working together, the hematologist and hematopathologists formulate a diagnosis and deliver appropriate therapy when needed.

Blood Disorders

Anemia is the most commonly treated type of blood disorder. Anemia occurs when your body faces a deficiency of oxygen-rich red blood cells or when your red blood cells do not function properly. A low level of hemoglobin, the iron-rich protein that carries the oxygen in red blood cells, is a telltale sign. Anemia can be chronic or a temporary condition caused by other health issues. It frequently remains undiagnosed because it is an underlying condition of other health issues, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic kidney disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Anemia caused by nutritional or vitamin deficiencies can be treated by small changes in your diet or taking vitamin supplements. In many cases, the symptoms are temporary with no long-term effects.

Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder in which red blood cells are sticky and crescent-shaped instead of round. They can block blood flow, causing pain and organ damage. It is an inherited, lifelong disease.

Aplastic anemia, also called bone marrow failure, is a blood disorder where the body’s bone marrow does not create enough new blood cells. Aplastic anemia can be acquired or inherited; however, the cause is not known for many who are diagnosed with this condition. While it can be associated with cancer or cancer treatments, aplastic anemia itself is not a cancer. A small number of those diagnosed with aplastic anemia may also develop leukemia. Symptoms of aplastic anemia include fatigue, frequent infections, abnormal bruising, or abnormal bleeding. Aplastic anemia can be treated with blood transfusions, blood and marrow stem cell transplants, and medications. If caught at an early stage and treated properly, many diagnosed with aplastic anemia can be successfully treated.

Hemophilia is a rare, generally inherited blood disorder where the blood does not properly clot. Patients may suffer from internal bleeding, which can cause damage to organs, joints and tissues. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. While there is no cure, there are several advanced treatment techniques which can significantly improve patient’s quality of life.

Hematologists also treat thrombosis and hemostasis – conditions related to the proteins that trigger bleeding and clotting. Thrombosis refers to the formation of abnormal blood clots that become embedded in a major vein or artery, blocking blood circulation. Blood clots can cause pain, swelling, or warmth in the affected area, and can be life-threatening. Hemostasis is the process of controlling bleeding.

Comprehensive anticoagulation and thrombosis management include outpatient and in-hospital management of anticoagulant medications, as well as comprehensive outpatient treatment for deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and evaluation and management of patients with thrombotic disorders. Most patients with deep vein thrombosis can be evaluated and treated in the office setting without facing a hospital admission.

Types of Hematology

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