Common Blood Disorders In Children

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Blood disorders can affect any of the three main components of blood: red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body, white blood cells fight infections, and platelets enable blood to clot. Blood disorders may also affect plasma, which is the liquid part of blood. In children, blood disorders may show up as various forms of anaemia, which is a reduced number of red blood cells.

Some blood disorders may cause an increase or decrease in white blood cell counts. Thrombocytopenia is a condition where the platelet count is abnormally low. Additionally, some diseases affect the blood clotting function. Patients with abnormal clotting may experience bleeding or blood clots in their circulation.

 

Cancers of The Blood

Although cancers of the blood or lymph glands, such as leukaemia or lymphoma, are generally rare, they are the most common form of childhood cancer. Symptoms of leukaemia and lymphoma may include enlarged lymph glands in the neck, anaemia, or swollen organs in the abdomen. However, most children with such symptoms do not have cancer.

Blood diseases in children can also lead to weakened immunity. Immune deficiency is a serious disease that can lead to death in some very young children before a diagnosis is even made.

 

Are Childhood Blood Disorders Life Threatening?

The severity of childhood blood disorders varies widely, and not all are life-threatening. Many blood disorders can be effectively managed with proper medical care, allowing children to lead relatively normal lives. However, some blood disorders can be serious and potentially life-threatening if not diagnosed and treated promptly.

For example, certain types of leukaemia, severe forms of haemophilia, and some inherited anaemias can pose significant health risks. The prognosis depends on the specific disorder, its stage at diagnosis, and the response to treatment.

 

What Are The Different Types Of Paediatric Blood Disorders?

Various types of blood disorders require medical attention by a physician or other healthcare professional. Below is a list of some of these disorders, along with a brief overview of each.

 

Anemia

Anaemia is a condition in which a child has too few red blood cells or not enough haemoglobin, a protein that allows red blood cells to carry oxygen in the body. There are several types of anaemia, including the following listed. 

 

Iron deficiency Anaemia

This occurs when there is not enough iron in the blood to form haemoglobin, which is the most common cause of anaemia in children. 

 

Megaloblastic Anaemia

This is when red blood cells are too large due to a lack of folic acid or vitamin B-12. Pernicious anaemia is a type of megaloblastic anaemia caused by an inability to absorb vitamin B-12. 

 

Hemolytic Anaemia

This occurs when red blood cells are destroyed, often due to serious infections or certain medications.

 

Sickle cell Anaemia

This is an inherited type of anaemia that results in abnormally shaped red blood cells.

 

Cooley's Anaemia (Thalassemia)

Another inherited type of anaemia with abnormal red blood cells.

 

Aplastic Anaemia

This is a serious condition in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough new blood cells, resulting in less oxygen delivered to organs, increased risk of infection, and increased risk of bleeding problems.

 

Hemoglobin C Disease

 This disease is caused by abnormal hemoglobin which carries oxygen to cells, tissues, and organs.

 

Hemoglobin E Trait

This is also an inherited blood disorder that results in an abnormal form of haemoglobin, which may cause mild anaemia. It is most common in people of Southeast Asian descent.

 

Thalassemia

Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder that affects the production of haemoglobin and may cause anaemia in children. There are different types of thalassemia, and the severity of anaemia depends on the specific type the child has.

 

Von Willebrand Disease (VWD)

This is an inherited disorder that affects the blood's ability to clot. People with VWD may have low levels of a blood protein called von Willebrand factor, which helps platelets in the blood stick together to stop bleeding. Sometimes von Willebrand factor is in the blood but is not working effectively. VWD may also cause problems with another clotting protein in the blood known as factor VIII.

 

How Are Blood Disorders Diagnosed?

Diagnosing a blood disorder typically involves a combination of medical history analysis, physical examination, and various laboratory tests. Blood tests, such as complete blood count (CBC), can reveal abnormalities in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Additional tests, like blood smears or bone marrow biopsy, may be conducted to further investigate specific disorders.

Imaging studies and genetic testing could also be employed, depending on the suspected disorder. Consultation with a haematologist, a doctor specialised in blood disorders, is crucial for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

 

How Are Paediatric Blood Disorders Treated?

Treatment options for paediatric blood disorders depend on the specific disorder diagnosed. Following are some common approaches to managing the disorder:

  •         Medications: Prescription drugs may be used to manage symptoms, prevent complications, or treat the underlying cause of the disorder.
  •         Blood Transfusions: In some cases, such as anaemia or certain clotting disorders, blood transfusions may be necessary to replenish deficient components.
  •         Bone Marrow or Stem Cell Transplantation: In severe cases, a transplant may be recommended to replace damaged or diseased cells with healthy ones.
  •         Supportive Care: This may include measures such as dietary changes, pain management, or physical therapy to improve the quality of life.
  •         Regular Monitoring: Ongoing monitoring through blood tests and check-ups helps to track the progress of treatment and adjust the approach as needed.
  •         Education and Support: Providing education and emotional support to both the child and their family is crucial for coping with the challenges of managing a blood disorder. The paediatric haematologist will play a key role in coordinating and overseeing the care, and the specific treatment plan will be tailored to the individual child's condition.



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