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What are Blood Disorders?

Blood disorders, or blood diseases, are conditions that affect the different parts of your child’s blood, including:

  • White blood cells
  • Red blood cells
  • Platelets
  • Plasma
  • Hemoglobin [HEE-muh-gloh-bin]

Many times, blood disorders are caused by another condition. Treating that condition may help with your child’s blood disease. Blood diseases are a serious medical concern, and should not be left untreated. Blood diseases are often found at birth with screening.

One of the most common blood disorders is called anemia [uh-NEE-mee-uh]. There are many kinds of anemia. If your child has anemia, they don’t have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin to carry oxygen through their body. Hemoglobin is a blood protein that helps the cells move oxygen.

Some types of anemia include:

  • Iron deficiency [dih-FISH-uhn-see] anemia,  a conditioncaused by a lack of iron in your child’s diet.
  • Megaloblastic [MEG-uh-luh-BLAST-ik] anemia, a condition where your child gets anemia because their bone marrow (where blood cells form) doesn’t make enough cells. Cells become too large, shaped the wrong way, or are not fully formed.
  • Hemolytic [hee-moh-LIT-ik] anemia, a condition where your child’s blood cells are des troyed faster than they are made in the bone marrow.
  • Sickle cell anemia, a condition where a child inherits the blood disease from their parents. Children with sickle cell disease don’t make blood with enough hemoglobin, which is the part of the cell that helps the blood move oxygen through the body.
  • Aplastic [uh-PLAS-tik] anemia, a condition where your child’s bone marrow doesn’t make enough blood cells. Children with this condition have fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Their organs don’t get enough oxygen, they have an increased risk of infection, and an increased risk to have bleeding issues.

Other kinds of blood disorders and diseases include:

  • Leukemia [loo-KEE-mee-uh], a type of cancer that originates in blood cells. Leukemia is the cancer that occurs most often in children. The cancer starts in the bone marrow and then moves out with the blood to other areas of the body.
  • Hemophilia [hee-muh-FIL-ee-uh], a condition where your child can’t stop bleeding if they get cut or receive another kind of wound. Blood usually stops flowing when it clots, but people with hemophilia have trouble forming blood clots.
    In seeking treatment for your child’s blood disorder, you may want to meet with a hematologist [hee-muh-TOL-uh-jist], a doctor who specializes in blood disorders.

    In seeking treatment for your child’s blood disorder, you may want to meet with a hematologist [hee-muh-TOL-uh-jist], a doctor who specializes in blood disorders.


The symptoms of blood cell disorders vary depending on what kind of disorder your child has.

The symptoms of the different kinds of anemia can include:

  • Headaches
  • Irritability
  • Swollen or sore tongue
  • Slow healing from wounds
  • Delayed growth
  • Faster heart rate
  • Trouble catching breath
  • Getting tired easily
  • Low energy
  • Dizziness

Some of the more serious symptoms of a blood disorder include:

  • Damage to any organ, including eyes, kidneys, liver, and/or gall bladder
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Stroke
  • Frequent, serious infections

Anemia can be a symptom of another condition in your child. Your child’s doctor can do blood tests to try to figure out what is causing the anemia.

When to See a Doctor

See a doctor if your child is frequently pale or tired, has yellowed skin, is bleeding heavily and it doesn’t seem to be stopping, or displays other concerning symptoms.

The symptoms of blood disorders can be similar to symptoms caused by other types of conditions. It’s important to seek medical advice to figure out exactly what’s wrong.


There are a variety of causes of blood cell disorders. Many of them are congenital —meaning your child is born with the disease.

Anemia is caused by several things, including:

  • Losing red blood cells
  • Your child’s body not being able to make enough red blood cells
  • Red blood cells being destroyed
  • Genetics or heredity blood cell problems that come from the parent’s genes
  • Infections
  • Other diseases
  • Some types of medicine
  • Your child not getting enough minerals or vitamins from their food

Diagnosis and Tests

Doctors frequently screen for blood cell disorders when your child is born.

Some kinds of blood tests that check for anemia include:

  • Peripheral [puh-RIF-er-uhl] smear
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Hemoglobin [HEE-muh-gloh-bin] and hematocrit [hi-MAT-uh-krit]

In each of these tests, a blood sample is taken so the blood can be examined for signs of disease. A blood sample is taken with a needle that will be put into one of your child’s veins, usually in the arm. Sometimes a child’s finger can be pricked instead of their arm.

Getting a blood sample can be uncomfortable for your child. It may cause slight bruising or swell where the needle is put into the vein.


Treatments for blood cell disorders depends on what kind of disorder your child has.

Anemia treatment depends on what’s causing the anemia. Some possible treatment methods include:

  • Getting your child to eat foods that keep their blood healthy
  • Getting more vitamins and minerals, either from food or pills
  • Getting your child off medicine that might be causing anemia
  • Medicines that keep your child’s blood healthy
  • Blood transfusions
  • Bone marrow transplants
  • Stem cell transplants
  • Drinking lots of water
  • Having eye exams to check for signs of anemia
Treatment methods vary from child to child and from condition to condition. Talk to your doctor about what kind of treatment is right for your child.


Prevention methods for blood disorders depend on the kind of blood disease that your child has. Not all blood cell disorders can be prevented. Some prevention methods include:

  • Making sure your child gets enough iron from their food.
  • Avoiding injuries or infections if possible by washing their hands often and keeping them away from sick people.
  • Making sure your child drinks enough water, sleeps enough, and has a good diet.
  • Knowing if you carry any blood diseases so that when you make family planning decisions you’re aware of the risk of passing on a blood disease.

Blood disorders, or blood diseases, affect the different parts of your child’s blood. Some blood diseases affect white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets, plasma, or hemoglobin. Children with blood disorders may have trouble moving oxygen around their body, replacing lost blood, or fighting other diseases. Blood diseases can be treated with medicine, bone marrow transplants, improved diet, or by treating whatever condition is causing the blood disorder.