Red Blood Cell Disorders

Red Blood Cell Disorders

Blood cell disorders are conditions that affect the red and white cells, and platelets. The three cells form in the bone marrow inside the bones. The red blood cells are responsible for getting oxygen to the organs and tissues while white blood cells help in fighting infections. Platelets are important to clotting. Platelets circulate in the blood and form blood clots allowing wounds to heal and stop excessive bleeding.


Symptoms of blood disorders vary depending on which cells are being affected. High or low counts result in a variety of common symptoms or complications including:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • difficulty breathing
  • inability to focus or concentrate
  • rapid heart rate
  • muscle weakness
  • joint pain
  • itching
  • pale skin color


Diagnosis is made by blood testing. Tests like a CBC provide information regarding the levels of each component within the blood. An RBC (red blood cell count) is important to determine how many red blood cells are in the blood. Red blood cells are called erythrocytes. These cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to the tissues in the body and contain hemoglobin. Without oxygen tissues and organs loose ability to function.

Normal levels for men, women, and children are as follows for an RBC:

  • men are 4.7 to 6.1 million cells per microliter (mcL).
  • women who aren’t pregnant is 4.2 to 5.4 million mcL.
  • children are 4.0 to 5.5 million mcL.

An RBC count can be elevated by several factors including (to name a few):

  • smoking
  • congenital heart diseases
  • dehydration
  • cancer
  • polycythemia


A CBC is a complete blood count and measures blood components like:

  • red blood cells
  • white blood cells
  • hemoglobin
  • hematocrit
  • platelets

Normally a CBC is done as part of an annual physical or before surgery. It is a good indicator of overall health. It is often used when monitoring patients with leukemia or blood infections.

There are many illnesses and diseases that can affect the cells that circulate within the body. Too many to list here. However, one disease called Sickle Cell is unique in that it causes the red blood cells to become crescent shaped instead of remaining round.  These cells are unable to meet the body’s needs for oxygen.

Lifestyle changes can improve blood counts. Some changes to remember include:

  • a healthy diet
  • exercise
  • stop smoking

An elevated RBC may be decreased by:

  • decreasing red meat and iron intake
  • drink more water
  • avoid caffeine and alcohol

The opposite is true for low RBC. To improve levels of dietary changes include:

  • iron-rich foods (meat and spinach)
  • B-12 (eggs, meats, and fortified cereal)
  • copper (shellfish, poultry, nuts)

There is a multitude of blood disorders and diseases. Some are benign (non-cancerous) while others are type of blood cancer.  One or more blood components may be affected depending on the disorder or disease.

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