The Hematology Laboratory provides laboratory tests for the diagnosis and treatment of blood cell and coagulation disorders. We provide services covering the sub-Saharan African region. We are a major referral centre in Africa. The highly skilled local scientists and technical staff work together with a team of local and international hematologists to provide a quality service with in depth clinical interpretation.
The Hematology Department Encompasses
Hematology is the study of blood in health and disease. Blood is composed of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. People may be affected by many different types of blood conditions and blood cancers. Blood conditions can be broken down into white blood cell disorders, red blood cell disorders, clotting disorders and bleeding disorders.
We provide services covering the sub-Saharan African region. We are a major referral centre in Africa. The highly skilled local scientists and technical staff work together with a team of local and international hematologists to provide a quality service with in depth clinical interpretation.
The body produces white blood cells, called leukocytes, which help fight infection. When your body produces too many white blood cells it results in a blood disorder called leukocytosis. When your body isn’t producing enough white blood cells to fight off infection it is called leukopenia.
Leukopenia occurs when the production of white blood cells is disrupted. This can be caused by viral infections, autoimmune disorders, congenital disorders, certain types of medications, or cancer. Some medical treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy can also cause leukopenia. Some of the more common symptoms of leukopenia include:
Treatments for leukopenia often involve steroids to help stimulate bone marrow growth along with medications to eliminate infections.
Leukocytosis occurs when the body produces too many white blood cells. An increase in white blood cells is often temporary, and the body will naturally adjust the levels back to normal over a period of time. Physical stress from seizures, anesthesia, overexertion, or emotional stress can temporarily elevate white blood cells. Certain medications such as corticosteroids, lithium, and beta agonists can also cause elevation. Occasionally an increased white blood cell count is due to a more serious blood disorder such as leukemia. Some of the more common symptoms of leukocytosis include:
Many times a person’s white blood cell count will return to normal without treatment; however, IV fluids and medicines to reduce inflammation are sometime given to reduce the production of white blood cells.
While there are many different types, below are some of the more commonly seen red blood cell disorders.
Anemia occurs when your body is not producing enough red blood cells or when the red blood cells are not properly functioning. When a problem with red blood cell production or function occurs, the body does not get the oxygen that it needs which could cause one or more of the following symptoms.
Chronic disease, infections, poor diet, and intestinal disorders are all common causes of anemia. The risk of anemia increases with age and with activity. People who run or engage in other strenuous sports or activities have a greater chance for developing anemia due to their blood cells breaking down. People with one or more of the following chronic conditions are also at a greater risk for developing anemia
Sickle cell anemia is the most common type of inherited blood disorders. Healthy blood cells are fluid in shape so they can easily pass through the small blood vessels in the body. In people with sickle cell, their red blood cells are shaped like a half moon (or a sickle), so they have difficulty flowing into the small blood vessels and often get blocked. The lack of blood flow can cause pain, infection, and problems with organs not receiving the adequate amount of blood.
Thalassemia is an inherited blood disorder in which the body makes an abnormal form of hemoglobin which results in large numbers of red blood cells being destroyed, which leads to anemia. A blood test is used to diagnose thalassemia and during a physical exam, the doctor will often look for an enlarged spleen, which is often a symptom. Other symptoms of thalassemia include:
Treatment for thalassemia often involves regular blood transfusions and folate supplements. Bone marrow transplants are often used to treat the disease, especially in children.
Erythrocytosis is a rare inherited blood disorder where the body produces too many red blood cells. The excess red blood cells increase the risk for blood clots which could prevent blood flow to major organs such as the heart, lungs, or brain. While the prevalence of erythrocytosis is unknown, researchers found the cause of one type to be genetic mutations involving one or more genes. There are two types of erythrocytosis. Familial erythrocytosis is where a person inherits the disorder, and non-familial erythrocytosis is where a person acquires the disease later in life. Non-familial erythrocystosis can be caused from long term exposure to high altitude, chronic lung or heart disease, sleep apnea, chronic smoking, or certain types of tumors. Symptoms of erythrocystosis include:
Erythrocytosis can sometimes lead to other more serious conditions such as polycythemia vera. Polycythemia vera is a genetically acquired blood cancer in which your body makes too many blood cells. It is a slow growing type of blood cancer, but if left untreated, it can result in a more serious type of cancer such as leukemia. Treatment for erythrocytosis will vary according to the severity or progression of the disorder. Treatments may include a phlebotomy (withdrawing blood to decrease the volume), a low-dose aspirin regimen, or medications to decrease blood cells.
Platelets are small segments of blood cells that help form clots to heal wounds and prevent further bleeding. Platelet disorders can occur if your body is producing too many or too few platelets.
Thrombocytopenia is a disorder in which the body does not produce enough platelets to help the blood clot. Although the direct cause of the disorder is still unknown, research shows that it is the result of the body’s immune system not functioning properly. The antibodies attack and destroy the blood platelets instead of attacking the infection. Thrombocytopenia can run in families or result from certain medications (chemotherapy or radiation) or medical conditions such as viral infections, severe bacterial infections, vitamin B12 deficiency, leukemia, or lymphoma. Some of the more common symptoms of thrombocytopenia include:
Treatment for thrombocytopenia depends on its severity. Steroids and other medications to increase platelet levels may be given following your treatment.
Thrombocytosis is a disorder in which the body produces too many platelets. An elevated platelet count can be temporary resulting from things such as excessive alcohol use, vitamin B12 deficiency, acute infection, or strenuous activity. High platelet counts can also be the first sign of cancer and other more serious conditions such as anemia and certain infectious diseases, such as connective tissue disorder, inflammatory bowel disease, and tuberculosis. Many people with thrombocytosis do not experience any symptoms, so the condition is not diagnosed until after a routine blood test. For those that do experience symptoms, a few of the more common symptoms include:
Treatment for thrombocytosis depends on the cause. If it is the result of an underlying medical condition, then your physician will address the condition that is causing thrombocytosis. If it is primary thrombocytosis (meaning it is not caused from any underlying medical condition or medication) then certain medications can be taken to reduce platelet counts.
Bleeding disorders are a group of conditions in which blood does not properly clot. The two most common bleeding disorders are hemophilia and von Willebrand disease. Hemophilia is an inherited disorder that affects mostly males. Because the blood does not clot properly, any cut or injury can result in excessive bleeding. The more common disorder, von Willebrand disease, is also an inherited condition but is usually milder than hemophilia and can affect both males and females. Some of the more common symptoms of bleeding disorders include:
Treatment for bleeding disorders depends on the severity. Mild cases are often gone untreated but patients are warned to stay away from drugs that can aggravate bleeding such as aspirin and ibuprofen. More serious cases can be treated with medications that increase blood factors or transfusions.
Blood clotting disorders are conditions in which blood clots form too easily or don’t dissolve properly. They can be caused by problems with the blood, blood vessels, medications, or underlying medical conditions. Blood clotting disorders can be acquired or genetic. Acquired blood clotting disorders can be caused by smoking, obesity, or certain diseases such as atherosclerosis. Treatment for blood clotting disorders depends on the cause and the severity. Medicines that thin the blood are used as routine treatment for blood clotting disorders.