Aplastic anemia is a disease in which the bone marrow stops producing enough blood cells. In AA, stem cells or the marrow microenvironment is defective or damaged, and fails to produce enough blood cells to serve the body’s needs.
Who is affected?: A rare and serious condition, aplastic anemia can develop at any age regardless of race or gender. However, it is diagnosed more often in children, young adults, and older adults. Men and women are equally likely to have it and this disorder is two to three times more common in Asian countries
It can occur suddenly, or it can come on slowly and worsen over time. It can be mild or severe. With prompt and proper care, most people who have aplastic anemia can be successfully treated.
Diagnosis: The following tests can help diagnose aplastic anemia:
- Medical History – To determine the cause of symptoms and to give an accurate diagnosis.
- Blood tests. Normally, red blood cell, white blood cell, and platelet levels stay within certain ranges. In aplastic anemia all three of these blood cell levels are low.
- Bone marrow biopsy. A doctor uses a needle to remove a small sample of bone marrow from a large bone in your body, such as your hipbone. The sample is examined under a microscope to rule out other blood-related diseases. In aplastic anemia, bone marrow contains fewer blood cells than normal. Confirming a diagnosis of aplastic anemia requires a bone marrow biopsy.
- Blood Transfusion – Assists patients with low blood counts.
- Growth Factors – Growth factors are naturally occurring hormones in your body that signal your bone marrow to make more of certain types of blood cells. Man-made growth factors may be given to some patients with bone marrow failure disease to help increase red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelet counts.
- Immunosuppressive Therapy – Immunosuppressive drug therapy lowers your body’s immune response. This prevents your immune system from attacking your bone marrow, allowing bone marrow stem cells to grow.
- Bone Marrow Transplant – A bone marrow transplant (BMT) is also called a stem cell transplant (SCT) or hematopoietic stem cell transplant (HSCT). The procedure replaces unhealthy blood-forming stem cells with healthy ones and offers some patients the possibility of a cure. There are, however, potential risks and long-term effects side effects.
Symptoms: Aplastic anemia can have no symptoms. When present, signs, and symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid or irregular heart rate
- Pale skin
- Frequent or prolonged infections
- Unexplained or easy bruising
- Nosebleeds and bleeding gums
- Prolonged bleeding from cuts
- Skin rash