Monday, January 21, 2008

What Is Hematology

"Hematology" comes from the Greek words haima, meaning blood, and logos, meaning study or science. So, hematology is the science of blood.

Hematology is the study of blood and its disorders. Hematologists, board-certified internists, look specifically at blood components such as blood count, and blood and bone marrow cells. Hematological tests can help diagnose anemia, hemophilia, blood-clotting disorders, and leukemia.

Hematology is that medical specialty which concerns itself with the blood, and the generation of blood in the bone marrow. Hematology studies the red and white blood cells, their relative proportions and general cell health, and the diseases that are caused by imbalances between them, notably leukemia and anemia. Red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the various parts of the body, and white blood cells fight infections. Both are necessary, but they have to be in the body in the right proportions or systems will break down.

Anemia is a shortage of red blood cells, a condition which can be caused by a number of different factors. Women of childbearing age are more likely to be anemic than anyone else because they lose red blood cells monthly through menstruation. Anemia caused by a lack of iron in the diet is easily treated by iron supplements. Other types of anemia with less easily remedied causes can be harder to treat and life-threatening. Hematology diagnoses these conditions and prescribes appropriate treatments for them.

Leukemia is a condition in which the bone marrow produces too many white blood cells. These are typically abnormal white cells, and their sheer numbers crowd out the red blood cells, causing anemia and other dangerous symptoms. Hematology recognizes a number of different types of leukemia, with different causes and treatment protocols.

Acute leukemia needs immediate treatment, since it is immediately life-threatening, yet some forms of chronic leukemia can be watched without treatment until symptoms emerge. Chemotherapy can do much for leukemia sufferers and is currently one of the main tools in hematology's leukemia toolbox. Bone marrow transplants, considerably more intrusive, are another.

Symptoms of diseases that fall under the hematology umbrella are widely varied and easily confused with other diseases. However, a quick blood test for cell counts can quickly tell a hematologist whether or not a patient has a disorder of the blood.

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