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Rhesus Disease: What Is It?

Updated on November 23, 2016

Rhesus Disease is a blood condition. It is also known as Anti-D Sensitisation.

A person will get Rhesus Disease when they become sensitised to antibodies. A person will most commonly develop Rhesus Disease during pregnancy or after a blood transfusion.

There are different blood types and each is either positive or negative. A person with positive blood has red blood cells which are coated in a type of protein. A person with negative blood does not have this protein around their red blood cells. This difference in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when the blood types are mixed.

A positive blooded person can absorb negative blood as the body will coat the red blood cells in the protein substance. However, the negative blooded person cannot absorb the protein around the red blood cells from positive blood, and therefore, cannot absorb blood from a positive person. When positive blood gets into the system of a negative blooded person, the person will make antibodies.

These antibodies are a type of protection. As the negative blooded person cannot absorb the positive blood, antibodies are made to try and get rid of, or 'mop up', the foreign, and therefore harmful, blood cells. This is how the body's system views the red blood cells. Once there are antibodies in the system, they cannot be gotten rid of.

There is a serum to protect the body from forming antibodies and this is routinely given during pregnancy and after trauma if you are negative blooded. However, there is a very finite window in which the serum can be given for it to be effective. This window is 72 hours after the 'sensitising event'. However, I believe that it becomes less effective the longer it is denied. Once antibodies are formed, this serum is ineffective. As stated above, once you are sensitised you are sensitised for life.

Therefore, Rhesus Disease is when a person makes antibodies as a response to contamination with positive blood or after some type of trauma. It can be protected against, but cannot be cured or reversed. Once sensitised to antibodies, the antibodies will stay in the person's system.

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