Haematology is the study of blood. It is a subspecialty of internal medicine that involves the overall management of conditions that affect the production of blood and its components.
What Does A Haematologist Do?
A haematologist is a medical doctor who has had additional training and specialises in studying and treating diseases and conditions of the blood. They are also involved in the process of blood banking and transfusion.
Haematologists often work with other specialists, such as oncologists, in treating blood-related cancers.
Symptoms To Look Out For
There are many different blood-related disorders, but they share some common symptoms that might indicate that you need specialist care.
- Excessive bruising
- Frequent nosebleeds
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- A history of developing blood clots
- Pale parlour
- Shortness of breath
You may be referred to a haematologist if routine blood tests show an abnormality in your white or red blood cells or platelets. This could be a sign of a blood disorder or even blood cancer.
While your primary care physician can handle many aspects of your health care, some conditions and situations warrant seeing a specialist, like a haematologist.
You should see a haematologist for specialised care if you have a known blood disorder, like haemophilia, or thrombophilia.
is a rare, inherited bleeding disorder in which the blood doesn't clot properly. This can lead to spontaneous bleeding, as well as excessive bleeding following injury or surgery. It's caused by a lack or deficiency of certain clotting factors, which are proteins in the blood that control bleeding.
is a group of conditions that increase a person's risk of developing abnormal blood clots in veins or arteries. These conditions are usually inherited but can sometimes be acquired, often as a result of an underlying disease or taking certain medications.
Anaemia means a lack of blood. There are several types of anaemia, each with its own specific cause.
- Iron-deficiency anaemia occurs when the body doesn't have enough iron to produce haemoglobin, usually due to blood loss (such as from heavy menstrual periods or stomach ulcers), poor absorption of iron from the diet, or a diet that lacks sufficient iron-rich foods.
- Vitamin deficiency anaemia (also known as megaloblastic anaemia) is when the body doesn’t have the vitamins it news to produce enough healthy red blood cells., specifically vitamin B12 and folic acid.
- Pernicious anaemia is when the body has a lack of intrinsic factor - a protein that helps the body absorb vitamin B12.
- Haemolytic anaemia is when red blood cells are destroyed faster than the bone marrow can replace them. It can be inherited (such as in conditions like sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia), or it can be acquired due to disease or medications.
- Sickle cell anaemia is a severe hereditary form of anaemia where the red blood cells develop into a sickle shape, which results in the cells being less able to carry oxygen to the body's tissues. It can cause a wide range of complications, including episodes of pain, infections, and stroke.
- Aplastic anaemia is a rare, potentially life-threatening anaemia that happens when the body's bone marrow doesn't produce enough new blood cells. It can be caused by certain medications, infections, autoimmune diseases, exposure to toxic chemicals, or radiation therapy.
Certain long-term medical conditions, like cancer, HIV/AIDS, rheumatoid arthritis, and kidney disease, can interfere with the production of red blood cells, leading to chronic anaemia.
If you've been diagnosed with a blood cancer like leukaemia, lymphoma, or myeloma, a haematologist (often in the subspecialty of haematology-oncology) will oversee your care.
- Leukaemia starts in the bone marrow, leading to an abnormal increase in white blood cells, which can spread to the bloodstream and other parts of the body.
- Lymphoma originates in the lymphatic system, specifically in the lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell), leading to symptoms such as enlarged lymph nodes, fatigue, and weight loss.
- Myeloma, also known as multiple myeloma, is a cancer of plasma cells (a type of white blood cell) in the bone marrow, which can lead to problems with the immune system, kidneys, bones, and red blood cell production.
Bone Marrow Disorders
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are a group of disorders caused by poorly formed or dysfunctional blood cells in the bone marrow, leading to ineffective blood cell production and often progressing to acute myeloid leukaemia.
What Types Of Diagnostic Tools Do Haematologists Use?
Haematologists use a range of diagnostic techniques to identify and assess the severity of blood and bone marrow diseases. Here are a few of the most commonly used methods:
- Complete Blood Count (CBC) measures different blood components.
- A peripheral Blood Smear is a microscopic inspection of blood cells.
- Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy is a microscopic inspection of bone marrow cells.
- Flow Cytometry uses a laser to inspect the physical and chemical characteristics of blood.
- Coagulation Testing measures blood clotting.
- Cytogenetic Analysis tests for genetic abnormalities.
- Molecular Testing analyses genes and proteins at the molecular level.
- Immunophenotyping identifies cells based on the types of antigens or markers on the cell's surface.
Tackling Blood Disorders, Together
We understand that dealing with blood-related conditions can feel overwhelming, but knowledge is power. With the right understanding and support, you can navigate these challenges confidently.
We have a world-class network of haematologists who are committed to offering you personalised care.
Frequently Asked Questions
Iron-deficiency anaemia is the most common type of anaemia worldwide
Symptoms of anaemia to look out for include dizziness, or being light-headed, being abnormally tired over a long period of time, shortness of breath, being abnormally pale and a very fast heartbeat.