Medical News Today: Blood transfusions: What to know

Blood transfusions work to replace blood that is lost due to injury or surgery. People can also get blood transfusions to treat certain medical conditions.

This article will outline what a blood transfusion is, when they are necessary, and what to expect during the procedure.

close up of an arm having a Blood transfusionShare on PinterestA person may require a blood transfusion if they have anemia, hemophilia, or cancer.

A blood transfusion is a procedure that restores blood to the body.

A healthcare professional will pass blood through a rubber tube into a vein using a needle or thin tube.

The sections below will cover the different types of blood transfusion procedures available, as well as the different types of blood.

Types of blood transfusions

According to the American Red Cross, there are four common types of blood transfusions:

  • Red blood cell transfusions: A person may receive a red blood cell transfusion if they have experienced blood loss, if they have anemia (such as iron deficiency anemia), or if they have a blood disorder.
  • Platelet transfusions: A platelet transfusion can help those who have lower platelet counts, such as from chemotherapy or a platelet disorder.
  • Plasma transfusions: Plasma contains proteins important for health. A person may receive a plasma transfusion if they have experienced severe burns, infections, or liver failure.
  • Whole blood transfusion: A person may receive a whole blood transfusion if they have experienced a severe traumatic hemorrhage and require red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Before a blood transfusion, a healthcare professional will remove the white blood cells from the blood. This is because they can carry viruses.

That said, they may transfuse white blood cells called granulocytes to help a person recover from an infection that has not responded to antibiotics. Healthcare professionals can collect granulocytes using a process called apheresis.

Blood types

It is important that a healthcare professional uses the correct blood type during a blood transfusion. Otherwise, the body might reject the new blood, which can have severe consequences.

There are four types of blood:

Each blood type can be positive or negative.

Blood type O is compatible with all other blood types. People with blood type O are universal donors.

If someone is in a critical condition and bleeding heavily, a doctor may use universal blood donor blood.

Blood transfusions are necessary when the body lacks enough blood to function properly. For example, a person may need a blood transfusion if they have sustained a severe injury or if they have lost blood during surgery.

Some people need blood transfusions for certain conditions and disorders, including:

  • Anemia: This occurs when a person’s blood does not have enough red blood cells. It can develop for a number of reasons, such as if a person does not have enough iron in their body. This is known as iron deficiency anemia.
  • Hemophilia: This is a bleeding disorder wherein the blood is unable to clot properly.
  • Cancer: This occurs when cells in the body divide and spread to the surrounding tissues.
  • Sickle cell disease: This is a group of red blood cell disorders that change the shape of red blood cells.
  • Kidney disease: This occurs when the kidneys are damaged.
  • Liver disease: This occurs when the liver stops functioning properly.

Most blood transfusions take place in a hospital or at a clinic. However, visiting nurses may be able to perform blood transfusions at home. Before this, a doctor will need to perform a blood test to determine a person’s blood type.

During a blood transfusion, a healthcare professional will place a small needle into the vein, usually in the arm or hand. The blood then moves from a bag, through a rubber tube, and into the person’s vein through the needle.

They will carefully monitor vital signs throughout the procedure. It can take up to 4 hours to complete a blood transfusion.

Recovery time may depend on the reason for the blood transfusion. However, a person can be discharged less than 24 hours after the procedure.

A person may feel an ache in the hand or arm after a transfusion. There may also be some bruising at the site.

There may be a very small risk of a delayed reaction to the transfusion. Although this does not typically cause problems, a person should consult a doctor if they feel unwell and have unexpected symptoms, such as nausea, swelling, jaundice, or an itchy rash.

It is important to let a doctor know about any symptoms that might signal a reaction, such as nausea or difficulty breathing.

Blood transfusions are very safe. Strict procedures exist to ensure that the testing, handling, and storage of donated blood is as safe as possible.

However, it is possible for a person’s body to react to the new blood. Such reactions can be either mild or severe.

Some reactions occur immediately, while others can take several days to appear. Examples include:

Allergies

Allergic reactions are common. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergic reactions make up over 50% of reported reactions to blood transfusions.

Antihistamine medications can help treat allergic reactions.

Fever

A person may experience a fever following a blood transfusion.

Although this is not serious, if they also experience chest pain or nausea, they should let a doctor know as soon as possible.

Hemolytic reaction

This can occur when the blood types are not compatible, causing the immune system to attack the new blood cells.

This is a serious reaction, but it is very rare.

Symptoms may include:

  • lower back pain
  • chest pain
  • dark urine
  • nausea
  • fever

Transmission of infections

In very rare cases, donated blood can contain bacteria, viruses, or parasites that may cause infections such as HIV or hepatitis B or C.

However, according to the CDC, experts test every blood donation for these contaminants. It is therefore very rare for a person to contract an infection from a blood transfusion.

In fact, according to the American Red Cross, the chance of a person contracting hepatitis B is 1 in 300,000, and the likelihood of contracting hepatitis C is 1 in 1.5 million.

The chances of getting HIV from a blood transfusion in the United States is less than 1 in 1 million.

A blood transfusion is a safe procedure that replaces blood lost to injury or surgery. It can also help treat certain medical conditions.

Blood transfusions can be lifesaving, but they can cause some mild side effects.

Although infections are very rare, it is possible for the body to react to the new blood. In most cases, however, these reactions are mild.

Medical News Today: Best supplements for lowering blood pressure

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High blood pressure is a common issue. A person can reduce their blood pressure by following a healthful diet, exercising, and avoiding smoking. Can taking dietary supplements, including vitamins, minerals, or herbs, also help?

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), nearly half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, also called hypertension.

Having hypertension increases a person’s risk of heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes.

Leading a healthful lifestyle can reduce blood pressure. This includes eating a healthful, low-salt diet, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and limiting the intake of alcohol. For some people, doctors also recommend medication that lowers blood pressure.

According to some sources, natural treatments and dietary supplements can help reduce hypertension. Do these supplements work, and are they safe?

In this article, we investigate the research into supplements for lowering blood pressure, exploring their effectiveness, risks, and alternatives.

a woman in a shop looking for the Best supplements for lowering blood pressureShare on PinterestA person should talk to their doctor before taking supplements to lower blood pressure.

Some evidence suggests that certain supplements could help lower blood pressure. However, most of the relevant studies have been of low quality or included small sample sizes.

Doctors do not routinely recommend supplements for hypertension. According to the AHA, “There are no special pills, vitamins, or drinks that can substitute for prescription medications and lifestyle modifications.”

The AHA recommend talking to a doctor before taking any supplement to lower blood pressure because supplements may not work as advertised, and some can raise blood pressure.

The following sections look at the evidence behind some common supplements that people take to reduce high blood pressure.

Potassium is a mineral that plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. When too much salt, or sodium, in food increases a person’s blood pressure, potassium clears the sodium from the body.

Sodium causes high blood pressure because it stops the kidneys from removing water from the body efficiently. Carrying excess water leads to a hike in blood pressure.

Potassium helps reduce blood pressure in two ways:

  • by causing the body to get rid of more sodium in the urine
  • by relaxing the walls of blood vessels

Authors of a 2017 review of studies report that potassium supplements could help decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

The effect was strongest in people who had high-sodium diets, people who had a low intake of potassium before the study, and people who were not taking blood pressure medication.

However, potassium supplements can be harmful for people with kidney disorders. As with any supplement, it is a good idea to consult a doctor before trying a potassium supplement.

The AHA do recommend eating high-potassium foods to help manage blood pressure. These include:

  • dried apricots
  • spinach
  • tomatoes
  • avocados
  • mushrooms
  • prunes or prune juice
  • fat-free or low-fat yogurt or milk

Magnesium is another mineral that plays an important role in regulating blood pressure. It supports many processes in the body, including muscle and nerve function, the immune system, and protein synthesis.

Authors of a 2016 review conclude, after having analyzed the results of 34 trials, that magnesium supplements can reduce blood pressure. They say that taking 300 milligrams (mg) of magnesium per day for 1 month may increase magnesium levels enough to lower high blood pressure.

The recommended dietary allowance of magnesium for adults is 310–420 mg.

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), a diet rich in magnesium may also reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.

Foods rich in magnesium include:

  • almonds
  • spinach
  • cashews
  • peanuts
  • black beans
  • avocados
  • potatoes
  • brown rice
  • fat-free or low-fat yogurt

Dietary fiber is important for keeping the heart and gut healthy. Eating enough dietary fiber can help lower:

  • cholesterol levels
  • blood pressure
  • the risk of cardiovascular disease

A 2018 review reports that some dietary fiber supplements may lower both diastolic and systolic blood pressure. A 2005 review suggests that supplementing the diet with about 12 grams of fiber per day could help reduce blood pressure by a small amount.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend consuming 25 grams of fiber per day and note that most people in the U.S. do not eat this amount.

Adding plenty of healthful high-fiber foods to the diet can help, and fiber supplements can be a good alternative.

High blood pressure can be particularly harmful during pregnancy, when doctors call it gestational hypertension. If a woman does not receive treatment for this issue, it can lead to complications such as preeclampsia, stroke, preterm delivery, and low birth weight.

A 2018 study found that taking supplements containing folic acid lessened the risk of gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.

Folic acid is a B vitamin, and getting enough of this vitamin during pregnancy can help prevent birth abnormalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that women who may become pregnant take 400 micrograms of folic acid per day.

Many prenatal vitamins contain folic acid, which is also available as a standalone supplement.

In people who are not pregnant, researchers have yet to determine whether folic acid has any effect on high blood pressure.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a natural substance that occurs in the body and plays an important role in cell chemistry. It helps the cells produce energy.

Some scientists believe that this supplement can reduce blood pressure by acting as an antioxidant and preventing fatty deposits from forming in the arteries.

However, according to the ODS, “The small amount of evidence currently available suggests that CoQ10 probably doesn’t have a meaningful effect on blood pressure.” Also, the organization notes, research into the benefits for heart disease has been inconclusive.

A 2016 Cochrane review found that taking CoQ10 supplements did not significantly affect blood pressure, compared with placebo. The researchers conclude that definitively determining the effects will require further well-conducted studies.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, several other supplements may help lower blood pressure, including:

  • cocoa
  • garlic
  • flaxseed
  • green or black tea
  • probiotics
  • roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa)
  • fish oil, or others that include omega-3 fatty acids

The authors note, however, that evidence for the effects of these supplements is limited, and they may lower blood pressure only slightly, if at all.

People should be wary of any claim that a supplement can significantly lower high blood pressure.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and their quality and contents can vary.

Speak to a doctor before taking any dietary supplement. Some can have adverse effects and may interact with medications, including those for high blood pressure.

A doctor can advise about possible benefits and side effects, and they may recommend a more reliable brand.

A person with hypertension will benefit from avoiding substances that can raise blood pressure, including:

  • alcohol
  • caffeine
  • oral contraceptives
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen
  • systemic corticosteroids
  • antidepressants
  • some antipsychotics

In most cases, high blood pressure is preventable and controllable. People can often manage their blood pressure by:

  • consuming less sodium
  • eating less fat, especially saturated fat
  • having a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • staying physically active
  • avoiding smoking
  • treating sleep apnea, if present

If these changes are not enough, a doctor may recommend taking medication that will help reduce high blood pressure.

Learn more about natural ways to lower blood pressure here.

High blood pressure is a common issue. Some scientific evidence suggests that certain supplements, including potassium, magnesium, and folic acid, could lower blood pressure.

However, official organizations recommend lifestyle changes and, when appropriate, antihypertension medication instead.

Talk to a doctor before taking any nutritional supplements.

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Medical News Today: What to know about white blood cells

White blood cells circulate around the blood and help the immune system fight off infections.

Stem cells in the bone marrow are responsible for producing white blood cells. The bone marrow then stores an estimated 80–90% of white blood cells.

When an infection or inflammatory condition occurs, the body releases white blood cells to help fight the infection.

In this article, learn more about white blood cells, including the types and their functions.

an infographic showing the different types of White blood cells

Health professionals have identified three main categories of white blood cell: granulocytes, lymphocytes, and monocytes. The sections below discuss these in more detail.

Granulocytes

Granulocytes are white blood cells that have small granules containing proteins. There are three types of granulocyte cells:

  • Basophils: These represent less than 1% of white blood cells in the body and are typically present in increased numbers after an allergic reaction.
  • Eosinophils: These are responsible for responding to infections that parasites cause. They also play a role in the general immune response, as well as the inflammatory response, in the body.
  • Neutrophils: These represent the majority of white blood cells in the body. They act as scavengers, helping surround and destroy bacteria and fungi that may be present in the body.

Lymphocytes

These white blood cells include the following:

  • B cells: Also known as B-lymphocytes, these cells produce antibodies to help the immune system mount a response to infection.
  • T cells: Also known as T-lymphocytes, these white blood cells help recognize and remove infection-causing cells.
  • Natural killer cells: These cells are responsible for attacking and killing viral cells, as well as cancer cells.

Monocytes

Monocytes are white blood cells that make up around 2–8% of the total white blood cell count in the body. These are present when the body fights off chronic infections.

They target and destroy cells that cause infections.

According to an article in American Family Physician, the normal range (per cubic millimeter) of white blood cells based on age are:

Age Normal range
Newborn infant 13,000–38,000
2-week-old infant 5,000–20,000
Adult 4,500–11,000

The normal range for a pregnant women in the 3rd trimester is 5,800–13,200 per cubic millimeter.

High white blood cell count

If a person’s body is producing more white blood cells than it should be, doctors call this leukocytosis.

A high white blood cell count may indicate the following medical conditions:

  • allergic responses, such as due to an asthma attack
  • those that may cause cells to die, such as burns, heart attack, and trauma
  • inflammatory conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or vasculitis
  • infections, such as with bacteria, viruses, fungi, or parasites
  • leukemia

Surgical procedures that cause cells to die can also cause a high white blood cell count.

Low white blood cell count

If a person’s body is producing fewer white blood cells than it should be, doctors call this leukopenia.

Conditions that can cause leukopenia include:

Doctors may continually monitor white blood cells to determine if the body is mounting an immune response to an infection.

During a physical examination, a doctor may perform a white blood cell count (WBC) using a blood test. They may order a WBC to test for, or rule out, other conditions that may affect white blood cells.

Although a blood sample is the most common approach to testing for white blood cells, a doctor can also test other body fluids, such as cerebrospinal fluid, for the presence of white blood cells.

A doctor may order a WBC to:

  • test for allergies
  • test for infection
  • test for leukemia
  • monitor the progression of certain conditions
  • monitor the effectiveness of some treatments, such as bone marrow transplants

The following are conditions that may impact how many white blood cells a person has in their body.

Aplastic anemia

This is a condition wherein a person’s body destroys stem cells in the bone marrow.

Stem cells are responsible for creating new white blood cells, red blood cells, and platelets.

Evans syndrome

This is an autoimmune condition wherein the body’s immune system destroys healthy cells, including red and white blood cells.

HIV

HIV can decrease the amount of white blood cells called CD4 T cells. When a person’s T cell count drops below 200, a doctor might diagnose AIDS.

Leukemia

Leukemia is a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow. Leukemia occurs when white blood cells rapidly produce and are not able to fight infections.

Primary myelofibrosis

This condition causes a person’s body to overproduce some types of blood cells. It causes scarring in a person’s bone marrow.

Whether or not a person needs to alter their white blood cell count will depend on the diagnosis.

If they have a medical condition that affects the number of white blood cells in their body, they should talk to a doctor about the goals for their white blood cell count, depending on their current treatment plan.

A person can lower their white blood cell count by taking medications such as hydroxyurea or undergoing leukapheresis, which is a procedure that uses a machine to filter the blood.

If a person’s white blood cell count is low due to cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, a doctor may recommend avoiding foods that contain bacteria. This may help prevent infections.

A person can also take colony-stimulating factors. These may help prevent infection and increase the number of white blood cells in the body.

White blood cells are an important part of the body’s immune system response. There are different types of white blood cell, and each has a specific function in the body.

Certain conditions can affect the number of white blood cells in the body, causing them to be too high or too low.

If necessary, a person can take medication to alter their white blood cell count.