Blood disorders may involve plasma constituents, platelets, white cells, or red cells. The effects of blood disorders may result in too many or too few of the item concerned. In the blood disorder called anemia, for example, there is either a reduced amount of hemoglobin in each of the red blood cells or the total number of red cells is less than usual.
By simple definition, anemia means that the blood is unable to carry as much oxygen as it should, either due to a reduced number of red blood cells or a reduced amount of hemoglobin in those cells. The blood disorder may be caused by the improper formation of red blood cells by the bone marrow.
Normally, a small amount of vitamin B12 helps the red blood cells to mature, while iron in combination with protein assists in the delivery of hemoglobin to each of the cells. Failure of this process results to what is known as anemia of production, an example of which is called thalassemia.
An inherited blood disorder, thalassemia appears most commonly among the people who have originated from around the Mediterranean region (for example, Greeks, Italians, and Turks), hence, the condition is also sometimes called Mediterranean anemia. Because of the inability to form enough normal adult type hemoglobin, the person with thalassemia suffers from a continuous production of a fetal type of hemoglobin.
In postnatal life, fetal hemoglobin does not carry oxygen as efficiently as the adult type hemoglobin does. Also, the fetal hemoglobin-filled cells die much sooner than normal cells. In response to the low oxygen and rapid cell death occurrences, the bone marrow intensely produces more red cells.
The individual suffering from this kind of anemia of production is likely to have large, thick, spongy bones filled with red bone marrow. Other symptoms of thalassemia include enlarged spleens and livers, dark-colored urine, and jaundice. Those who are severely affected by this blood disorder often die before reaching the age of ten.
In a few cases, thalassemia patients have responded remarkably to surgical removal of the enlarged spleen. Otherwise, there is relatively little physicians can do about this blood disorder. The patient should be kept comfortable and should guard against infections. Green leafy vegetables (especially asparagus, spinach, and lettuces) should be part of the patient’s diet because these foods are rich in folic acid, a B vitamin which helps the body produce healthy new cells.
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3. “Thalassemia,” on MedlinePlus – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000587.htm
4. “Thalassemia,” on Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thalassemia