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September is Blood Diseases Month

September was designated in 2009 as Blood Diseases Month by virtue of Proclamation 1833 to raise people’s awareness and understanding of blood-related diseases.

Blood is made of liquid, cells, and cell-like components that pass through the blood vessels, the arteries, veins, and capillaries. Blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to tissues and removes carbon dioxide and waste products. It carries the cells that fight infection and components that prevent bleeding.

The liquid portion (plasma) comprises more than one half of the blood that circulates in the body. It is mostly water that contains dissolved salts and proteins. Albumin is the main type of protein. Others are antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) and clotting proteins. Hormones, electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, fats, sugars, minerals, and vitamins are also found in plasma.

Aside from maintaining circulation and transporting the blood components, plasma prevents blood vessels from collapsing and helps maintain blood pressure. It cools and warms the body as needed. The antibodies defend the body against viruses, fungi, bacteria, and cancer cells. Clotting proteins prevent bleeding.

The cells that comprise blood are red blood cells or erythrocytes, white blood cells or leukocytes, platelets or thrombocytes. Red blood cells are the most abundant of the three cell types. They flow smoothly inside blood vessels and contain hemoglobin, which carries oxygen. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to the different parts of the body where it is used to generate energy for normal body cell and tissue processes. Carbon dioxide, the waste product generated during these processes, is then carried away by red blood cells back to the lungs where it is expelled as we breathe out.

White blood cells, considered the soldiers of the body, are less in number. There is one leukocyte for every 660 erythrocytes. The five types of leukocytes are neutrophils, lymphocytes, monocytes, eosinophils, and basophils.

Neutrophils (granulocytes) are the most abundant type of white blood cells. They can ingest foreign bodies in the blood and contain granules with enzymes that protect against bacteria and fungi. Neutrophils can be of the immature type called bands or mature type called segmenters. Lymphocytes are either T-Cells, which protect against viruses and destroy some cancer cells or B-cells that produce antibodies. Monocytes are granulocytes that ingest dead cells and can also provide immune protection against infections. Eosinophils kill parasites, destroy cancerous cells, and have a role in allergic response. Basophils play a role in allergic response.

White blood cells can attach to the wall of blood vessels. In the presence of an injury or infection they can penetrate through blood vessel walls, release substances to attract more white blood cells and together fight off an infection.

Platelets are particles smaller than red and white blood cells. They gather in bleeding sites where they stick and clump together to form a plug that seals injured blood vessels and control bleeding. They release substances that bring about blood clotting.

Erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets are formed in the bone marrow. Lymphocytes are also produced in lymph nodes and in the spleen.

Inside the bone marrow, all cells come from a single type of cell the stem cell. It divides to first become an immature red blood cell, white blood cell, or platelet-producing megakaryocyte, which in turn divide and mature. The speed of blood cell production is determined by the body’s needs. More red blood cells are produced when there is low oxygen content in the tissues (hypoxia) or there is low red blood cell count. More white blood cells are produced in response to infections, and more platelets are produced when there is bleeding.

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Medical questions or concerns may be emailed to baguiomidlandcourier@yahoo.com or yourmedicalcorner@yahoo.com. Answers will be emailed or will be provided in the column.

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