Posts Tagged ‘blood’

The Basics of Blood Donation

January 1st, 2023

National Blood Donor Month has been observed every January since 1970. It serves as a yearly reminder of the need for blood donations. According to the American Red Cross, someone in the US needs blood every two seconds. If you donate blood you can save a life, or several lives if your blood is separated into its components: red blood cells, platelets and plasma.

According to the American Red Cross, every two seconds someone in the US needs blood. But only 3 percent of eligible Americans are blood donors

Some facts and stats about blood needs and blood supply, from the Red Cross:

• Approximately 29,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the US.
• Nearly 5,000 units of platelets and 6,500 units of plasma are needed every day in the US.
• Nearly 16 million blood components are transfused each year in this country.
• A person injured in a motor vehicle crash can require as many as 100 units of blood.
• Blood and its components cannot be manufactured. They can only be obtained from donors.
• Only 3 percent of eligible Americans donate, an estimated 6.8 million.
• In this country, 13.6 million units of whole blood and red blood cells are collected in a year.

People with certain disorders, such as hemophilia and sickle cell disease, can require routine blood transfusions. Many of the estimated 1.9 million people who will develop cancer this year will need blood, sometimes daily, during chemotherapy treatment. Many people undergoing major surgery and those experiencing complications of childbirth will require blood as well.

The need for blood is great; so is the need for increasing the number of donors. Donating is easy, safe and only takes about an hour. Here’s what to expect.

In Florida, a donor must be in general good health and feeling well on donation day, be at least 17 years old (16 with parental consent) and weigh at least 110 pounds.

When arriving at the donation site, the volunteer will sign in, show ID and complete the registration paperwork, which includes general information such as name, address and phone number. The volunteer will also be asked to read important information about blood donation.

The next step is a medical history and mini-physical. An employee of the donation site will ask questions about health history, travel history and medications. The employee will also take a pulse, blood pressure, temperature and a small sample of blood for testing. These measures must all fall within established limits for to continue.

After passing the mini-physical, the donor will be directed to the donation area and instructed to lie on a table or cot. A phlebotomist (an employee trained to draw blood) will disinfect the arm and insert the needle. The typical donation is 1 pint, or unit, of blood. The donation itself takes about 8 to 10 minutes.

Afterward, the donor will be offered snacks and a drink to help the body get back to normal after losing the fluids during blood donation. It is recommended that the volunteer stay least 10 minutes to be sure there is no dizziness and enough strength to continue daily activities.

The donor should avoid alcoholic beverages for 24 to 48 hour after giving blood. Also, no workouts or hard physical activity for 24 hours after donating. If there is bleeding from the donation site, raise an arm and apply pressure to the spot for a few minutes. If the area bruises, place ice on it. Wait 56 days before donating again.

My donation site, and most others, makes the results of my mini-physical available to me on a secure website a day or two after my donation. The results include my cholesterol level, which my doctor and I are keeping an eye on because it tends to run high. This is another advantage of blood donation.

Patti DiPanfilo

A Bit About Bleeding Disorders

September 10th, 2019

Normally, if you cut yourself, your body rushes to form a blood clot at the site of the injury to staunch the bleeding. Clots are mostly made of platelets, a type of blood cell, and protein clotting factors that work together to form a fibrin “plug” around the injured area. But if you have a bleeding disorder, this clotting process doesn’t work like it’s supposed to.

Without proper clotting, people with bleeding disorders can bleed excessively. The problem might be too few or abnormal platelets, or low quantities of clotting proteins in the blood. There are different types of bleeding disorders. The most recognized is hemophilia, but the most common is a condition called von Willebrand disease. Both of these disorders occur when the blood lacks certain clotting factors.

The majority of bleeding disorders are inherited, although there are types that form later in life if your body’s immune system rebels against the natural clotting factors. Since there’s a genetic factor involved in most of these disorders, people with a family history of bleeding disorders are at greater risk for having a bleeding disorder themselves.

Some bleeding disorders occur as the result of a medical condition. These include liver disease, a low red blood cell count, a Vitamin K deficiency and as a side effect of certain medications. Medications that interfere with blood clotting are called anticoagulants or blood thinners. Anticoagulants are often used to thin blood to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

While there are different bleeding disorders, they have many symptoms in common. Here are some of the things to look out for. If you notice any of these symptoms, see your doctor for a thorough evaluation. Common symptoms of bleeding disorders include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Bleeding gums
  • Heavy bleeding from small cuts
  • Unexplained nosebleeds
  • Excessive bleeding following surgery or a dental procedure
  • Excessive bleeding during your menstrual periods

While hemophilia is a well-known bleeding disorder, it’s actually rare. It affects approximately one in 10,000 people. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate there are 20,000 people with hemophilia in the US. All races and ethnic groups are affected by it. There is currently no cure for hemophilia, but there are effective treatments.

Hemophilia has two classifications, type A and type B, based on which clotting factor is deficient. With type A hemophilia, clotting factor VIII is lacking, and with type B, it’s clotting factor IX. Blood will not clot properly without these clotting factors. Hemophilia type A is the more common type. It’s about four times as common as type B.

Von Willebrand disease (VWD) is caused by a deficient or defective blood clotting protein called von Willebrand factor. VWD is quite common. It affects up to one percent of the US population, which means about 3.2 million people, or one in every 100 Americans, have the disease.

There are several types of VWD. It’s most commonly divided into type 1, type 2 and type 3. Type 1, which is the mildest form, accounts for 70 percent of all cases of the disorder. VWD occurs equally in men and women, although women are more likely to notice symptoms because they may bleed more heavily during their menstrual periods or after childbirth.

In cases of  type 1 VWD, there are lower than normal levels of von Willebrand factor in your blood. With this type, you likely will also have low levels of clotting factor VIII. With type 2 VWD, you have normal levels of von Willebrand factor, but it doesn’t work properly.

People who have type 3 VWD, the most severe form, have extremely low levels or no von Willebrand factor in their blood. They also have low levels of clotting factor VIII. Type 3 VWD is very rare. Only three percent of people with VWD have this type.

VWD is almost always inherited through a mutation to the gene responsible for its development. However, it’s also possible for the gene to spontaneously mutate, so you can get the disease without having a family history of it. You can also get VWD if your immune system overreacts and destroys the von Willebrand factor in your blood.

Treatment for VWD depends on the type and severity. For some mild cases, no treatment may be needed. For other cases, common treatments include desmopressin acetate injections. Desmopressin acetate is a medicine that makes the body release more von Willebrand factor into the blood. It also helps increase the level of factor VIII in the blood.

Another treatment for VWD is factor replacement therapy. During this therapy, medicines rich in von Willebrand factor and factor VIII are injected to replace the missing clotting factors in your blood. This treatment is typically reserved for people with more severe cases of the disease.

Antifibrinolytic drugs, which slow the breakdown of blood clots, and birth control pills, which increase levels of von Willebrand factor and factor VIII, and reduce menstrual blood loss, are other options for treating VWD.

In addition to von Willebrand factor, factor VIII and factor IX, there are many other clotting factors in the blood. Deficiencies in those clotting factors can lead to other, more rare bleeding disorders. Some of these rare disorders have only been discovered during the past 40 years, as more is learned about clotting factors and the blood clotting process.

A Dialogue on Bleeding Disorders

March 26th, 2019

When most people get a cut or other trauma to their bodies, specialized cells are immediately transported to the site of the injury to form a blood clot and stem the bleeding. To form a blood clot, you need a type of blood cells called platelets and certain proteins known as clotting factors.

During the clotting process, the platelets clump together at the site of the injury to form a “plug.” Then, the clotting factors group up to make what’s called a fibrin clot. Fibrin is an insoluble protein that creates a mesh. The fibrin clot holds the platelets together in place and prevents blood from flowing out of the injury.

If you don’t have enough platelets or clotting factors, or if they aren’t functioning properly, you end up with a bleeding disorder. When you have a bleeding disorder, the clotting process takes much longer to complete. This puts you at risk for complications from bleeding too much from an injury to bleeding internally into your tissues and organs, including your brain.

Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions affecting blood clotting. The most well-known is hemophilia, but it’s not the most common bleeding disorder. That distinction belongs to von Willebrand disease. Hemophilia is rare, affecting about 20,000 Americans. Von Willebrand disease, on the other hand, is found in up to 1 percent of the US population, or 3.2 million people.

In addition to hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, there are many other bleeding disorders that have been identified. They include Factor I, II, V, VII, X, XI, XII and XIII deficiencies, named after the specific clotting factors involved.

Most bleeding disorders, including hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, are inherited, which means they are passed on from your parents to you. They’re usually the result of defects on specific genes on your DNA. In rare cases, they can be acquired as the result of another disease such as liver disease or as a side effect of certain medications such as blood thinners.

Each bleeding disorder has its own set of symptoms, but there are a few general symptoms commonly experienced by people with these disorders. They include:

  • Easy bruising
  • Bleeding gums
  • Heavy bleeding from small cuts
  • Frequent nosebleeds
  • Heavy menstrual periods
  • Excessive bleeding following surgery or dental procedures
  • Bleeding into joints

Because bleeding disorders are passed along in families, your doctor will probably ask you a lot of questions about your family’s medical history, as well as your personal history, when making a diagnosis. The doctor will also give you a complete physical examination and will likely order blood tests.

These blood tests may include a complete blood count (CBC), which measures your total amount of red and white blood cells; a platelet aggregation test, which examines how well your platelets clump together, and a bleeding time test, which calculates how quickly your blood clots.

Treatment varies depending on the type of bleeding disorder you have and how severe it is, but it often includes iron supplementation to replenish the iron you lose when you bleed a lot. This can keep you from developing anemia, a condition in which your blood lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to your body.

Blood transfusions are a common treatment for bleeding disorders. During a blood transfusion, the blood you lose from bleeding is replaced with blood taken from a donor. Some disorders, including hemophilia, can be treated by injecting often synthetic clotting factor components into your bloodstream. This is called factor replacement therapy.

Another treatment is the infusion of fresh frozen plasma that contains certain clotting factors such as factors V and VIII, which are important to the clotting process. People with severe bleeding disorders may remain on a routine treatment regimen, or prophylaxis, to maintain enough clotting factor in their bloodstreams.

Bleeding disorders can’t be cured, but treatment can help to relieve the symptoms and allow you to live a relatively normal life. It can also help to prevent or control the complications associated with these disorders, including bleeding into the organs and tissues.

But you have to seek treatment as soon as possible, so if you notice any of the symptoms of a bleeding disorder, see your doctor right away.

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