Navigating nonmalignant blood disorders

Last Modified: 6/13/2022

blood disorders

Blood disorders often occur when parts of your blood aren’t functioning properly. Whether it’s difficulty clotting, excessive bleeding, or you just don’t feel well, it could be pointing to a nonmalignant blood disorder. Robert Manges, MD, medical oncologist, Hematology, Parkview Cancer Institute, helps explain a few of these benign conditions further and why early detection and treatment can make all the difference in your quality of life.

What is hematology?

Hematology has been around for more than 100 years and is the study of blood – white cells, red cells and platelets. A hematologist specializes in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases or disorders of the blood.

What is a nonmalignant (or benign) blood disorder?

Nonmalignant blood disorders affect the production and function of your body’s blood cells. This disruption usually causes abnormally low or high levels of blood cells and can prevent blood cells from developing correctly. If this occurs, it can hinder blood’s usual function, such as clotting, transporting oxygen and nutrients, or fighting infection.

What are some of the most common benign blood disorders?

The list is endless, but some of the most common types of benign blood disorders often include but are not limited to:

  • Anemia
  • Bleeding disorders (Von Willebrand disease)
  • Elevated and decreased blood cells (white blood cells and platelets)
  • Blood clotting disorders (deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE)
  • Iron overload syndromes or hemochromatosis

While these blood diseases and disorders are nonmalignant or benign, they can still be life-threatening. An iron deficiency, for example, is prevalent in both men and women but left untreated, it can decrease the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood, causing the body to overcorrect, leading to an increase in heart and respiratory rates. So, our goal with any blood disease or disorder, no matter how big or small, is first to find the cause and then see if we can resolve or treat it.

How to find out if you have a nonmalignant blood disorder?

The best and easiest way to find out if you have a benign blood disorder is to have a blood test called a complete blood count (CBC) done. The test can provide a count of your white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets.

Are there any signs and symptoms to watch for if you have a blood disorder?

Some common symptoms of red blood cell disorders can include:

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling tired or weak

Possible symptoms of white blood cell disorders can include:

  • Fever
  • Frequent infections

Common symptoms of a platelet disorder can include:

  • Skin rash
  • Blood clots
  • Easy bruising
  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Excessive bleeding after injury
  • Excessive bleeding during/after dental or medical procedures
What are the treatment options for nonmalignant blood disorders?

Treatment options can vary depending on the blood disorder or disease and what’s causing it. However, for most benign blood disorders, treatment can include observation, medication and/or various types of therapies. But no matter the treatment, please be sure to speak with and follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations. They can help ensure your care plan is right for you.

Is there any way to prevent benign blood disorders?

Yes and no. Some blood disorders aren't preventable, but you can take steps to reduce your risk of complications like eating a healthy diet, staying active, not smoking, and paying attention to your health (getting regular checkups). Don't just assume that you are getting older. If you're not feeling well, please speak with your primary care provider or a healthcare professional and get your blood tested. Early detection, diagnosis, and management are crucial and can significantly impact your overall quality of life.

Need assistance?

Contact us