Formed Elements of Blood

Blood as we all know is the red fluid that flows within our bodies. It is a specialized connective tissue that contains plasma as well as three types of blood cells. Blood is responsible for supplying vital nutrients and substances throughout the body. It also removes waste and carbon dioxide which means that it keeps the body functioning as it should. A formed element is the basic constituent part of a system, and the formed elements of blood refer to the non-fluid elements. What are the functions and characteristics of the 3 formed elements of blood?

Formed Elements of Blood

1. Red Blood Cells

Function: The red blood cells are also known as erythrocytes and these are the most predominant cells in the blood. They contain hemoglobin which is a protein that contains iron and are responsible for transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide which is dissolved extracellularly as a bicarbonate ion within the plasma.

How It Works: What many people do not know is that without these blood cells, the body would slowly begin to shut down. The process of transporting oxygen and carbon dioxide may be complex but quite easy to comprehend. As the blood travels through the lungs, molecules containing oxygen attach themselves to hemoglobin. The hemoglobin then releases the attached oxygen to cells as the blood travels through the body tissues. The now empty hemoglobin bonds with tissues that contain waste gasses and carbon dioxide transporting them away from the body.

Normal Count: There are millions of red blood cells found in a single drop of blood. Men are estimated to have more blood cells than women and their count ranges between 4.7 and 6.1 million cells per microliter (cells/mcL). In women, the count ranges between 4.2 million and 5.4 million cells per microliter (cells/mcL).

Life Cycle and Other Information: Due to all the processes that these cells undertake, they tend to wear out and die with time. The life cycle of the red blood cells is 120 days but this does not mean that you can run out of the essential cells. Blood cells are constantly reproduced within the bone marrow and this means that the body constantly has fresh blood supply. The fact that the body is always reproducing blood makes it safe for us to donate our blood as long as we are healthy. Donating blood destabilizes the body a bit and leads to a brief lightheaded feeling; however, the body is quick to stabilize itself. It is estimated that of all cells present in the human body, red blood cells form 25 percent.

2. White Blood Cells

Function: The white blood cells also known as leucocytes are tasked with defending the body against bacteria, viruses and parasites. These blood cells can fight disease in various ways. They could either produce antibodies that overpower germs or surround and devour any bacterial presence.

Normal Count: Their count is much less than that of red blood cells. A drop of blood could contain anything between 7,000 and 25,000 white blood cells. The normal white blood cell count is between 4,500 and 10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL).

Precautions: It’s important to note that having a consistent large presence of white blood cells in the blood is not a sign of good health. This could be a symptom of leukemia which is cancer of the blood. A patient suffering from leukemia would have about 50,000 white blood cells in just one drop of blood. An increase in the number of white blood cells occurs when the body has a consistent and persistent infection that that fights back.

3. Platelets

Function: Platelets are colorless and shaped irregularly. Their surface is sticky in nature and this is what makes them the blood clotting element in the blood. The body naturally controls blood loss and it protects itself by sending the platelets to clot blood and consequently prevent hemorrhage. These platelets surround the wound with the help of vitamin K, calcium and fibrinogen which is a protein. Fibrinogen forms the web resembling mesh that hardens to form a clot. Vitamin K and calcium are essential nutrients during clot formation. Without these nutrients, the blood would not clot and the patient would essentially bleed to death. This is why it is important to have a healthy diet with essential minerals and vitamins.

Normal Count: The normal platelet count in the blood would be anything from 150,000 to 400,000 platelets per microliter (mcL).

Precautions: Whenever the blood clots, what we see through the skin is the scab but there are internal clots as well. Bruises are the bluish-black mark that we see due to blood clot formation. Although bruises and scabs facilitate healing, not all blood clots are healthy. In fact, some can be dangerous especially when they form within a blood vessel. This is because they could block blood flow and cut off oxygen supply. When the body has insufficient blood flow, there is limited oxygen supply and this could lead to paralysis, loss of sensory perceptions, brain damage and death.

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