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Haematology Specialist Doctor

Hematology Specialist Doctor

Health problems not only affect the organs in the human body, but also the blood. For someone who experiences blood-related health problems or diseases, the best solution is to consult a hematology specialist doctor or hematologist. 

A hematologist is a specialist doctor that has the ability to handle all blood-related health issues. Etymologically, the word hematology comes from the Greek word “haima” which means blood, while “logos” means knowledge. Thus, hematology is a branch of medicine that studies the ins and outs of blood, including its components and problems, in depth and comprehensively.

Blood diseases or disorders may occur due to various factors – genetic factors, lifestyle, the influence of other diseases, nutritional intake, or side effects of certain medications. Blood disorders have different degrees of severity and require proper treatment from a hematologist.

Blood is made up of liquid and solids.  The liquid part, called plasma, is made of water, salts, and protein. The solid part of your blood contains red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. These blood components are produced by the spinal cord and have different life cycles. Red blood cells have a life cycle of about 120 days, while white blood cells only last for one day. Platelets have a life cycle of six days. Blood disorders can affect the function of these components as well as various functions in the body.

Red blood cells (erythrocytes) are blood components that carries oxygen from various tissues throughout the body. The most common blood disorder that affect erythrocytes is anemia.

Anemia refers to a low erythrocyte count and is often characterised by fatigue, paleness, and shortness of breath. Meanwhile, white blood cells (leukocytes) are blood components that are responsible for maintaining the immune system.

Leukocytes will fight off various infections caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. When the body is fighting disease, the number of leukocytes will increase. The minimum number of leukocytes in each microliter of blood is 4,000 and the maximum is 11,000. Too little amounts of leukocytes may lead the body to be more susceptible to infection. Meanwhile, an excessive number of leukocytes may cause leukocytosis, which is characterised by fever, bleeding, fatigue, pain and tingling — making it difficult to concentrate.

Platelets are blood components that are responsible for clotting of the blood. A health problem that can affect the platelet count is dengue hemorrhagic fever.

In certain cases, a hematologist and oncologist can work together to treat blood-related cancers such as leukemia. To treat blood cancer, these two specialist doctors also work with other specialists such as radiologist, surgeons, rheumatologist, or genetic specialists to provide appropriate medical treatment.

Diseases Treated by Hematologists

There are various health problems that interfere with blood function in the body. Consulting a hematology specialist is the right first step, especially for patients with chronic blood diseases, either cancerous or non-cancerous.

The following are various diseases and health problems that can be treated by a hematologist, including those that affect various components of the blood and organs involved in blood production (bone marrow, spleen, and lymph nodes).

  • Sepsis.
  • Arterial thromboembolism.
  • Deep vein thrombosis.
  • Rheumatoid vasculitis or thalassemia.
  • Hemophilia A and B, a disorder in which your blood does not clot normally
  • White blood cell disorders, such as leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma.
  • Polycythemia vera, a blood disorder that occurs because the number of red blood cells is above normal.
  • Leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood due to excessive white blood cells count and becomes malignant.
  • Blood clots, blood clots that affect the function of certain organs, depending on where the blood clots.
  • Anemia, a blood disorder that occurs because the number of red blood cells is below normal. Anemia can also be caused by heavy bleeding during menstruation or a lack of iron and B12. There are several types of anemia that are classified as severe like aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia is a condition when the bone marrow is unable to produce enough erythrocytes and autoimmune hemolytic anemia, which it mistakes red blood cells for unwanted substances and attacks them, causing them to die early
  • Sickle cell anemia, a hereditary blood disorder. The red blood cells in this patient have a sticky condition. These sticky erythrocytes can cause blood flow obstruction, pain, and organ damage.
  • Von Willebrand’s disease, a congenital blood disorder caused by von Willebrand’s factor, which serves the function to form blood platelets and helps blood clot. Patients with this disease usually experience heavy bleeding even though they have small wounds.

A hematology specialist doctor can also perform spinal cord transplants, which is common treatment for cancer patients.

Medical Procedures Performed by Hematologists

A hematologist is able to perform a variety of medical procedures to help with a patient’s recovery. Similar to other doctors in general, a hematologist will perform an examination, trace medical history, conduct medical interviews, and perform a physical examination in order to diagnose the patient’s illness.

Hematologists also perform a special test called a complete blood count test (CBC). This test is a complete blood count of blood components such as red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Through this test, there are several things that a hematologist specialist can find out, such as:

  • RDW (red cell distribution width).
  • The white blood cells count, and their types.
  • MCHC (mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration).
  • MCV (mean corpuscular volume) or the average red blood cells count
  • MCH (mean corpuscular hemoglobin) the average hemoglobin count.
    The number of red blood cells and the percentage of erythrocyte constituents such as hemoglobin and hematocrit.

From these series of tests, the doctor will find out whether there is inflammation, infection, cancer, and various blood disorders that can help with the diagnosis. In addition, a comprehensive hematology test is also part of routine medical check-ups and tests prior to blood donations.

Hematology specialist doctors may also advise patients to undergo Prothrombin Time (PT) tests, Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT), as well as International Normalized Ratio (INR) to determine blood clotting disorders and evaluate the impact of treatment on the patient’s blood. There is also a bone marrow biopsy procedure which involves getting tissue samples.

When to See a Hematologist?

To know if you need to consult a hematologist, you need to pay attention to the symptoms that may appear. Blood disorders in the early stages often go unnoticed. However, if you find unusual symptoms that last long term, you need to see a hematologist before things worsen. You can also see a hematologist if you find an abnormal number of components in your blood (whether it is too high or low) after undergoing a medical check-up, to find out if you are suffering from a blood disorder.

You are advised to consult a hematologist immediately if you experience any of the following:

  • Persistent nosebleeds.
  • Bleeding joints.
  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Bleeding when urinating.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Blood does not clot normally after being injured.
  • Easy bruising — usually appear on various parts of the body.
  • Menstruation with heavy bleeding and / or within a long cycle.
  • A rash or red spots — may be caused by a low platelet count in the body.

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