Aplastic anemia is a rare but very serious disease. It’s caused from the bone marrow failing to produce blood cells.
This disease isn’t bias it can attack all ages, races and gender.
The inner part of bones is filled with a spongy tissue called bone marrow. The bone marrow produces the cells.
The red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the entire body. The white blood cells fight infection by attacking and wiping out germs. The platelets control bleeding by forming blood clots in areas of injury.
Blood cells have a limited life span once they leave the bone marrow therefore, constant production is required. The bone marrow supplies all the cells needed. It increases the production of the cells based on what your body requires at the time.
Symptoms of Aplastic Anemia
Symptoms arise as the result of bone marrow failure. Low red blood cell count (anemia) leads to fatigue and weakness. Low white blood cell count causes an increased risk of infection. Low platelet counts result in bleeding, especially of mucus membranes and skin.
Each individual can experience symptoms differently.
Following are the most common symptoms:
- Abnormal paleness or lack of color of the skin
- Shortness of Breath
- Rapid Heart Rate
- Nose bleeds
- Bleeding Gums
- Tendency to bruise easy
- Prolonged bleeding
- Frequent or severe infections
Untreated, it is an illness that leads to rapid death. Bone marrow transplants have been successful in young people, with a long term survival rate of 80 percent. Elderly people have a survival rate of 40 to 70 percent.
Testing and Diagnosis For Aplastic Anemia
The diagnosis starts with a blood test. Many people have never heard of this disease, and may not hear of it before being diagnosed with it.
Blood cell levels are typically maintained within certain ranges. When all three blood cell levels are very low, the possibility of aplastic anemia is very high.
To confirm the diagnosis requires a sample of bone marrow. A small amount of bone marrow may be removed and examined. Removing a small bit of liquid bone marrow is called aspiration. Removing bone marrow tissue is called biopsy.
A bone marrow aspiration may be done to find what is causing the low production of blood cells. Since blood cells are formed inside the bones, doctors use a needle to remove a small amount of liquid bone marrow. The sample is then examined under a microscope to check for abnormal cells.
A bone marrow biopsy is usually done at the same time. A small number of bone marrow cells with a small piece of bone is removed using a needle. This indicates the number and type of cells in the bone marrow.
Treatment For Aplastic Anemia
Blood transfusions are often given to patients with severe aplastic anemia. Platelet transfusions help reduce the risk of life threatening bleeding. Red blood cell transfusions reduce problems with being very tired and short of breath.
A bone marrow transplant is the best chance for a cure, but unfortunately not an option for all patients. A transplant replaces the abnormal cells in the bone marrow with healthy blood-forming cells.
The donor for a transplant must closely match the patient’s tissue type. The best donor is usually a matched sibling. If a family member is not a match, the National Marrow Donor Program Registry is searched.
To prevent infection to aplastic anemia patients, isolation may be necessary. Your visitors will have to wear masks and gowns.
Immunosuppressive therapies work with a patient’s immune system. These drugs work by stimulating the bone marrow to produce cells or by reducing the patient’s immune response allowing the bone marrow to work. Antithymocyte globulin (ATG) or antilymphocyte globulin (ALG) are two types of immunosuppressive therapies that have been used for treating aplastic anemia.
Severe infections or bleeding may develop. Complications of treatment may include graft failure or graft versus host disease.
This is an autoimmune disease, after bone marrow transplant. Patients can have reactions to ATG.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor or go to the emergency room if:
- Bleeding occurs for no reason
- Bleeding is difficult to stop
- Frequent infections or unusual fatigue
There is no known prevention for idiopathic aplastic anemia.