What are blood disorders?

Our blood consists of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to tissues throughout the body. White blood cells help fight infection and platelets help the blood to clot. Plasma, which makes up more than 50 percent of our blood, is a liquid combination of water, salts, and proteins, and also carries things such as sugar, hormones and waste material. Blood disorders may affect any one of these four components and the severity of the disorder can range from mild to life-threatening.

  • Red blood cell disorders include different types of anemia as well as malaria.
  • White cell disorders include cancers such as lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma and myelodysplastic syndrome.
  • Platelet disorders consist of conditions in which a person has too few, such as idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, or too many, as in the rare disease called essential thrombocythemia.
  • Plasma disorders include sepsis, a blood infection that spreads throughout the body, deep vein thrombosis (blood clot, usually in the leg), and hemophilia (blood does not clot).

Causes of blood disorders

A blood disorder may come from having a disease or infection. It may also be something you inherited in your genes. In the case of iron-deficient anemia, the condition may come from a lack of iron in your diet or your body's inability to absorb the mineral. In some cases, women who bleed excessively during menstruation have anemia.

If anyone in your family has had a blood disorder, you may be more susceptible to having one yourself. You may also be at risk if you have low blood-iron levels or have an autoimmune disease.

Blood disorder treatment options

As always, your age, overall health, and the type of blood disorder and its severity will determine your treatment, which may include medication, blood transfusion, or surgery. At Main Line Health we treat patients with all types of blood disorders. We also have surgical expertise such as bone marrow transplant for patients with blood disorders requiring more advanced care.

Bone Marrow Transplant

Preserving stem cells, then introducing them to the body to stimulate normal, healthy blood cell production, can be a lifesaving treatment option.


Chemotherapy is used to fight almost every type of cancer and is part of the comprehensive treatment plan created by our oncologists.


Hematology and Blood Disorders

Whether you are fighting cancer or managing a blood disorder, the hematologists and oncologists at Main Line Health offer the comprehensive care you need.