Aplastic anemia

What Is Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic anemia is a medical condition that occurs when your bone marrow stops producing enough new blood cells. These cells make red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In aplastic anemia, the quantity of each blood cell is much lower than normal. This condition leaves you fatigued and more prone to infections and uncontrolled bleeding and can be life-threatening. Aplastic anemia can develop at any age.

Stem cells in the marrow normally make blood cells and each type of blood cell has a different role:

  • Red cells carry oxygen around the body.
  • White cells fight infections.
  • Platelets prevent bleeding.

Aplastic anemia is also called bone marrow failure. It is more likely to happen to people in their late teens and early 20s, and the elderly. If you have this type, there is a higher risk of developing leukemia and other cancers. Treatment for aplastic anemia may include chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and immunotherapy.

What are the Causes of aplastic anemia?

There are two different types of aplastic anemia:

  • Acquired aplastic anemia
  • Inherited aplastic anemia

Acquired aplastic anemia is a rare blood disorder, this is the failure of the bone marrow to produce blood cells.

The main causes of Inherited Aplastic Anemia are Genetic disorder, wherein a family history of aplastic anemia is one of the causes.

The main causes of Acquired Aplastic Anemia are given below:

  • Effects of Environment – Toxic chemicals, Viruses like HIV or Epstein-Barr
  • Side effects of past treatment – Radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer

What are the Symptoms of aplastic anemia?

In aplastic anemia, the quantity of each of the three blood cell types is lower than normal, which leads to the symptoms below:

  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts, even from very minor wounds
  • Skin Rash
  • Headaches
  • Nosebleeds and bleeding gums
  • Tiredness and Weakness
  • Prolonged infections
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate

What are the treatment options for Aplastic anemia?

The two main goals while treating aplastic anemia is to reduce the person’s symptoms and to stimulate the bone marrow to create new blood cells.

  • Treatment Option 1 – Blood Transfusion – People with aplastic anemia can receive blood and platelet transfusions to correct low blood counts. While there is generally no limit to the number of blood transfusions you can have, complications can sometimes arise with multiple transfusions. Transfused red blood cells contain iron that can accumulate in your body and can damage vital organs if an iron overload is not treated. Medications can help your body to get rid of excess iron.
  • Treatment Option 2 – Antibiotics – A doctor may also prescribe antibiotics as a person needs white blood cells to fight infections. Generally, these drugs help to prevent infections until a person is able to build more new white blood cells.
  • Treatment Option 3 – Bone marrow stimulants – This will help stimulate the bone marrow to produce new blood cells. Growth factors are often used with immune-suppressing drugs.
  • Treatment Option 4 – Immunosuppressants – For people who cannot undergo a bone marrow transplant or for those whose aplastic anemia is due to an autoimmune disorder, treatment can involve drugs that alter or suppress the immune system (immunosuppressants).

What is the prognosis for Aplastic Anemia?

  • A person treated with immunosuppressive has 80 percent chances of responding to the treatment which may not require further treatment options.
  • A person who undergoes a donor transplant from a matched sibling has around 90 per cent chances of cure.

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