Acquired aplastic anemia is a very serious blood disorder in which a person’s bone marrow does not produce the required amount of red blood cells, white blood cells, or platelets. Red blood cells carry life-giving oxygen throughout the body and remove waste products like carbon dioxide. White blood cells help fight infection, while platelets help blood to clot, stopping bleeding after an injury.
Acquired aplastic anemia can strike at any time during a person’s life, and poses some serious health complications such as infections, lung problems, heart problems, bleeding issues, and more. Because this is an acquired disease (although there is an inherited form), it is important to understand the risk factors that contribute to developing this disease. The following risk factors can increase your chances of developing acquired aplastic anemia.
Radiation and chemotherapy are commonly used to treat various types of cancer. Unfortunately, these treatments can also cause acquired aplastic anemia. Both of these treatments can wipe out the body’s immune system, or cause the body’s own immune system to attack itself.
When the body’s healthy bone marrow cells are damaged or destroyed, acquired aplastic anemia can result. Aplastic anemia acquired in this manner can be temporary. It is important to note that cancer that spreads to the body’s bone marrow can also cause aplastic anemia.
Exposure to toxic chemicals can cause a wide variety of illnesses and disease. Aplastic anemia is one of them. A few of the chemicals used in pesticides, insecticides, glues, and gasoline that have been linked to acquired aplastic anemia include benzene, toluene, DDT, lindane, and petroleum distillates. Other chemical sources include wood preservatives and dyes, and explosives like TNT.
Although the link between these and other chemicals and acquired aplastic anemia has been well documented, they continue to be used. If you are exposed to any of these chemicals at work, the strictest precautions should be taken.
If you have viral infectious diseases such as HIV, hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, or parvovirus B19, you are at risk of developing acquired aplastic anemia. Because these viruses can affect and damage bone marrow, they can cause aplastic anemia.
Autoimmune diseases, which cause the body to attack its own tissues and cells, are also a risk factor. This can include autoimmune diseases like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. However, any autoimmune disease that affects bone marrow or blood cells can also cause aplastic anemia.
Pregnancy can cause many things to occur inside the body of the mother. One of these is pregnancy-induced aplastic anemia. Although it is very rare, developing this disease during pregnancy can be a danger to both mother and child. This condition can be managed and can be temporary; going away after the mother gives birth. Women who have previously been diagnosed with acquired aplastic anemia may experience a recurrence during pregnancy.
The use of certain medications can also place you at greater risk of developing aplastic anemia. Medications used to treat thyroid problems, convulsions, arthritis, and tuberculosis can cause acquired aplastic anemia.
Using NSAIDS, which are typically taken as over-the-counter drugs, have the same risk factors. These are used to treat pain, inflammation, and fever. Included in this class of drugs are aspirin and ibuprofen. Some prescribed medications in this class of drugs include Naproxen, Meloxicam, and Indomethacin.
While not every single drug in the NSAID group will cause aplastic anemia, you should ask your doctor if your prescribed medication places you at risk.
The severity of acquired aplastic anemia determines the course of treatment. Mild cases often require no treatment unless symptoms become severe. For cases that require treatment, treatments can include antibiotics, blood transfusions, growth factors, immunosuppressive therapy, and, very rarely, bone marrow transplants.
Although the above risk factors do account for a large majority of acquired aplastic anemia cases, it is important to understand that, for many people diagnosed with this disease, no cause can be identified.
Fortunately, acquired aplastic anemia is a rare disease. In fact, only about 0.7 – 4.1 out of every one million people are affected each year. Being aware of the risk factors in your life can help to prevent you from being added to that small number.