Today is part two of this three part series. I am focusing on the autoimmune disorders that affect the blood. Yesterday was a lot of information to take in at one time so I’m breaking it down into more manageable pieces.
Just a reminder:
Blood disorders can affect any of the three main components of blood:
- Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the body’s tissues
- White blood cells, which fight infections
- Platelets, which help blood to clot
Blood disorders can also affect the liquid portion of blood, called plasma.
Treatments and prognosis for blood diseases vary, depending on the blood condition and its severity.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia
This is a group of disorders characterized by a malfunction of the immune system that produces auto-antibodies, which attack red blood cells as if they were substances foreign to the body.
Destruction of red blood cells by auto-antibodies may occur suddenly, or it may develop gradually. If caused by a virus, the destruction may stop after a period of time. In other people, red blood cell destruction persists and becomes chronic.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia can also be caused by or occur with another disorder, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (lupus) or a lymphoma, and it can be due to the use of certain drugs, such as penicillin.
There are two main types of autoimmune hemolytic anemia:
- Warm antibody hemolytic anemia: The auto-antibodies attach to and destroy red blood cells at normal body temperature.
- Cold antibody hemolytic anemia (cold agglutinin disease): The auto-antibodies become most active and attack red blood cells only at temperatures well below normal body temperature.
Signs and symptoms of hemolytic anemia may include:
- Tiredness or fatigue.
- Cold hands and feet.
- Pale skin.
- Dark urine.
- Chest pain.
- Pain in the back or legs.
- Vomiting or diarrhea.
- Heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), a heart murmur, an enlarged heart, or heart failure. These may occur because the heart has to work harder to make sure the body gets enough healthy red blood cells.
Immune thrombocytopenia, or ITP, is a bleeding disorder. In ITP, the blood doesn’t clot as it should. This is due to a low number of blood cell fragments called platelets, or thrombocytes.
Platelets are made in your bone marrow along with other kinds of blood cells. They stick together (clot) to seal small cuts or breaks on blood vessel walls and stop bleeding.
Without enough platelets, bleeding can occur inside the body (internal bleeding) or underneath or from the skin (external bleeding).
People who have ITP often have purple bruises called purpura. These bruises appear on the skin or mucous membranes (for example, in the mouth). Bleeding from small blood vessels under the skin causes purpura.
People who have ITP also may have bleeding that causes tiny red or purple dots on the skin. These pinpoint-sized dots are called petechiae. Petechiae may look like a rash.
In most cases, an autoimmune response is thought to cause ITP. Normally, your immune system helps your body fight off infections and diseases. But if you have ITP, your immune system attacks and destroys its own platelets. The reason why this happens isn’t known.
Agammaglobulinemia is an immune disorder related to antibody deficiency (hypogammaglobulinemia) and is manifested in a variety of immune deficiency disorders in which the immune system is compromised. This group of immune deficiencies may be the consequence of an inherited condition, an impaired immune system from known or unknown cause, a relation to autoimmune diseases, or a malignancy.
I think my brain is on overload with all of this information. There are more autoimmune disorders that affect the blood, and I will discuss them in part three of this series.
If you are living with any of these autoimmune disorders that are listed in this post and you would like to comment on them, I would be very interested to hear your point of view. I’m sure readers of this post would be interested as well.