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Hematology 101

Hematology 101

Did you know that your overall health could be affected if there is a problem with your blood? When the body needs to deliver oxygen and nutrients to tissues, it uses the blood. Blood disorders can affect anyone and everyone – which is why it is important to know about the different disorders and who to seek help from.

There are many kinds of blood conditions and blood cancers. The most common blood disorders are anemia, bleeding disorders such as hemophilia, and blood clots. The most common blood cancers include leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. Hematologists can help with blood disorders, but you will most likely need to see a hematology-oncologist if you are living with a blood cancer.

If you believe you have a blood disorder or a blood cancer, you should let your doctor know right away. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist who can help.

Anatomy of Blood

Blood’s primary function is to carry nutrients, gases, waste products, cells, and hormones. Blood is composed of many parts: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. Each of these parts serves a specific function.

Red blood cells account for about 45% of the blood. They also contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissue. They also carry carbon dioxide back to the lungs, where it is then exhaled. Red blood cells are shaped like discs and are produced in the bone marrow.

White blood cells are also made in the bone marrow, but their purpose is to help fight infection. They are part of the immune system. White blood cells and platelets account for under 1% of the blood entirely. Platelets are small, colorless fragments that stick together and can stop or prevent bleeding by interacting with clotting proteins. Platelets are also produced in bone marrow.

Plasma is what makes the blood a fluid liquid. It is made of 92% water and contains vital proteins, mineral salts, sugars, fats, hormones, and vitamins.

What is hematology?

The word “heme” literally translates to “blood” in Greek. Hematology is a branch of medicine concerning the study of blood, the blood-forming organs, and blood diseases. Hematology deals primarily with the physiology, pathology, etiology, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and prevention of blood-related disorders.

What are hematologists?

Hematologists are specialists in hematology. These specialists must receive a four-year medical degree and complete three or four years in an internship or residency program. They spend two or three more years learning how to diagnose and treat blood disorders. Generally speaking, it takes at least 7 years to become a hematologist. You must also pass the board certification in internal medicine.

What are hematology tests?

Hematology tests can help diagnose anemia, infection, hemophilia, blood-clotting disorders, leukemia, and more. Hematologists can use a variety of tests to help diagnose patients. Here are some of the most common hematology tests:

  • Complete blood count (includes white blood cell count (WBC), red blood cell count (RBC), platelet count, hematocrit red blood cell volume (HCT), and hemoglobin concentration (HB), differential white blood count, and red blood cell indices)
  • Blood film
  • Blood enzyme test
  • Staining (can detect blood parasites like malaria, toxoplasmosis, and microfiliariasis)
  • Granulocytosis assessment
  • The erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
  • Bone marrow examination
  • Coombs’ test or antiglobulin test (used for blood typing and blood matching prior to blood transfusion)
  • Prothrombin time (check platelet function in bleeding and coagulation)
  • Diascopy (can determine whether a lesion is vascular, nonvascular, or hemorrhagic)
  • D-dimer assessment (to check for thrombotic disorders)
  • Electrophoresis (check for proteins in the blood and hemoglobinopathies)
  • Spleen biopsy

What can I expect from a visit to the hematologist?

During your first visit to a hematologist, they are likely to go over your medical history, perform any tests, and discuss your symptoms. They might ask you to get your blood pulled once more for additional tests and may recommend a course of treatment based on the results they find. Remember, hematologists are specialists in their field and will do whatever they believe is necessary to help the patient. Keep an open mind, and trust your doctor.

Visit the Gonzaba Medical Group

If you believe you have a blood disorder or blood cancer and live in the San Antonio area, visit one of Gonzaba Medical Group’s clinics. With seven convenient locations around town, we strive to make our team of doctors easily and readily accessible for our patients.

At Gonzaba Medical Group, our experienced and professional hematologists will work directly with you through every step of the process. To learn more about our hematology services or our in-house hematologists, call us at 210-921-3800.