What is aplastic anemia?
Aplastic anemia is a rare, but serious, blood disorder. It occurs when the body’s bone marrow stops making enough new blood cells due to damaged stem cells. The condition can develop over time or quite suddenly in people of any age. However, it does tend to get worse as time passes.
One type of aplastic anemia includes “congenital hypoplastic anemia,” which presents itself at birth.
What are the symptoms of aplastic anemia?
- Prolonged bleeding from cuts
- Bleeding gums
- Recurrent or lengthy infections
- Shortness of breath with exertion
- Pale skin
What causes aplastic anemia?
When bone marrow damage occurs, the production of new blood cells is shut down or drastically slowed. Because bone marrow produces stem cells, the production of stem cells is also halted. When stem cells are no longer being produced, platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells become “aplastic” or “hypoplastic.” This means the bone marrow is empty or has very few blood cells. If bone marrow can’t make enough new blood cells, other health problems arise, like aplastic anemia.
Are there treatment options for aplastic anemia?
There are! Treatment options for aplastic anemia patients can include:
- Blood transfusions
- Blood and marrow stem cell transplants
- Medicines, including:
- Treatment to stimulate bone marrow
- Treatment to prevent/treat infections
- Treatment to suppress the immune system
It’s important to talk with your doctor about the risks and benefits of each treatment option. People with mild forms of the disease may not need treatment immediately, but it’s definitely something to talk with your healthcare team about. In more severe cases, emergency medical care is necessary because if aplastic anemia goes without treatment, there’s a chance it could be fatal.
Where can I find more information?