The white cell system includes another important cell called the lymphocyte. This is manufactured in the lymph glands and spleen. Not much was known about this one until recently, but now it is recognized that it plays an important role in the immune system of the body Immunity via these cells, can occur, and it is instrumental in protecting the body against many disorders that might otherwise be fatal. They also play a part in the production of antibodies, which also give added protection to the body through the capacity of immunity, probably via the production of plasma cells.
Another white cell is the monocyte, which is also a phagocytic cell, devouring and digesting unwanted germs in the blood. It plays a part in the body’s immune system also.
The symptoms of anemia depend on the severity as well as the speed with which the condition develops. In an acute hemorrhage, symptoms will develop rapidly, and there will be a very profound disturbance of bodily function in comparison to one that develops gradually over a period of months or years.
Symptoms are due to a reduction in the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. These include breathlessness on exertion (dyspnoea), and this increases as the anemia worsens. There may be palpitations (awareness of the heart’s action), bouts of fainting, and swelling of the ankles. In older people there may be chest pains as the heart gets inadequate supplies of oxygen, and this becomes worse with activity. This pain is called angina pectoris.
Some may find pains in the calves on walking as insufficient oxygen reaches the lower limbs. This is termed intermittent claudication. There are other causes of this, but anemia is one. Often the skin becomes pale, especially the normally pink mucous membrane lining of the oral cavity, conjunctiva, nail beds and creases of the hands.
The heart tends to beat at a higher rate to pump more blood in an attempt to compensate for the reduced quality of the blood. So a fast beating heart may occur (called tachycardia). In turn this may produce ankle swelling (edema) and, in some people, heart failure. The heart muscle may be unable to cope with all these extra demands, itself’ deprived of adequate oxygen, and so it suffers mechanically as a pumping device.
Once anemia is suspected, it is essential to have tests carried out to find out the degree and also the cause. The simplest is a hemoglobin estimation, but a great number of tests are now available that will give the doctor valuable information to help, not only in making the correct diagnosis, but indicating the relevant treatment.