Aplastic anemia

Facts

In aplastic anemia,  the bone marrow stops producing new blood cells at the same rate resulting in deficits of all blood cell types. White blood cells fight germs and platelets help blood clot. Without these, the body is at risk for infection and uncontrolled bleeding.

Anemia A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal. Bone marrow The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Platelet A tiny, disc-shaped piece of a cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. A tiny, disc-shaped piece of a cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets are pieces of very large cells in the bone marrow called megakaryocytes. They help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. Having too many or too few platelets, or having platelets that do not work as they should, can cause problems. Checking the number of platelets in the blood may help diagnose certain diseases or conditions.

Aplastic anemia is a very rare disorder in which the immune system mistakenly destroys bone marrow. Fewer than 1,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year. Its cause is unknown, but in some cases there is a connection with exposure to chemicals such as benzene and radiation. It may also be inherited or brought on by a viral infection. Secondary aplastic anemia can develop when bone marrow is damaged by cancer, chemotherapy, certain medications, or pregnancy.

Symptoms

In aplastic anemia, the quantity of each blood cell type is much lower than normal. Fewer white blood cells will bring on unexplained infections. Fewer platelets bring about unexpected bleeding and fewer red blood cells cause fatigue. Other symptoms include:

  • Easy, unexplained bruising

  • Fever 

  • Nosebleeds and bleeding gums 

  • Pale skin 

  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts 

  • Rapid heart rate 

  • Shortness of breath with exertion 

  • Skin rash 

  • Weakness

Diagnosis

Aplastic anemia is diagnosed with blood tests to count the types of blood cells circulating in the blood. When two or three of the cell counts is extremely low, that is a strong indication of aplastic anemia. A definitive diagnosis is made with a bone marrow biopsy. In this procedure, a doctor uses a needle to remove a small sample of bone marrow from a large bone, such as the hipbone. The bone marrow sample is examined under a microscope to rule out other blood-related diseases. An aplastic anemia diagnosis is made if very few cells are present in the bone marrow, People with aplastic anemia are treated by a hematologist, one who specializes in blood disorders.

Anemia A condition in which the number of red blood cells is below normal. Biopsy The removal of a sample of tissue or fluid that is examined to see whether cancer is present. This may be done with a large needle or through surgical removal of tissue or fluids. Bone marrow The soft, spongy material in the center of your bones that produces all your blood cells, such as white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. Chemotherapy Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. It may be given alone or with other treatments. Treatment that uses drugs to stop the growth of cancer cells, either by killing the cells or by stopping them from dividing. Chemotherapy may be given by mouth, injection, infusion or on the skin, depending on the type and stage of the cancer being treated. It may be given alone or with other treatments, such as surgery, radiation therapy or biologic therapy. Hematologist A physician who specializes in diseases of the blood and blood-forming tissues. Platelet A tiny, disc-shaped piece of a cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. A tiny, disc-shaped piece of a cell that is found in the blood and spleen. Platelets are pieces of very large cells in the bone marrow called megakaryocytes. They help form blood clots to slow or stop bleeding and to help wounds heal. Having too many or too few platelets, or having platelets that do not work as they should, can cause problems. Checking the number of platelets in the blood may help diagnose certain diseases or conditions. Red blood cell A type of blood cell that carries oxygen in the body. Symptom A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. A physical or mental problem that a person experiences that may indicate a disease or condition. Symptoms cannot be seen and do not show up on medical tests. Some examples of symptoms are headache, fatigue, nausea and pain.