Despite its name, aplastic anemia, or bone marrow failure, is more than anemia. Aplastic anemia is a rare but serious blood condition that occurs when your bone marrow cannot make enough new blood cells for your body to work normally. It can develop quickly or slowly, and it can be mild or serious. At this time, there is no way to prevent aplastic anemia.
What are the symptoms of aplastic anemia?
Symptoms of aplastic anemia include:
- Infections that last a long time
- Easy bruising or bleeding
How is aplastic anemia diagnosed?
To diagnose aplastic anemia, your doctor will order tests to find out whether you have low numbers of cells in your bone marrow and blood.
What causes aplastic anemia?
Aplastic anemia is caused by damage to stem cells inside your bone marrow, which is the sponge-like tissue within your bones. Many diseases and conditions can damage the stem cells in bone marrow. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
The most common cause of bone marrow damage is from your immune system attacking and destroying the stem cells in your bone marrow. This is a type of autoimmune illness, a disease that makes your body attack itself. Other causes of aplastic anemia include some medicines, such as those used in chemotherapy, and exposure to toxins or chemicals in the environment.
You can also inherit the condition, in rare cases.
How is aplastic anemia treated?
Treatments for aplastic anemia may include the following:
- Blood and bone marrow transplants, which may cure aplastic anemia in some people
- Blood transfusions
- Medicines to stop your immune system from destroying the stem cells in your bone marrow
- Medicines to help your body make new blood cells
- Removing or staying away from toxins in your environment
Your doctor will monitor your condition and screen you for blood conditions regularly. If you take medicine that affects your immune system, you will also need to take steps to prevent infection and get annual flu shots.
What happens if aplastic anemia is not treated?
Aplastic anemia can raise your risk of complications such as bleeding, leukemia, or other serious blood conditions. Without treatment, aplastic anemia can lead to serious medical conditions such as an irregular heartbeat and heart failure