Aplastic anemia is a rare but very serious condition that develops as a result of damage to the bone marrow. Bone marrow is responsible for producing new blood cells for the body when the blood needs to be replenished. This is because the bone marrow is home to a person’s stem cells. Stem cells are essentially the base of all of the cells in the body and can become virtually any type of cell.
When a person suffers from aplastic anemia, it means that they do not have enough blood cells in the body because the bone marrow is either not producing them at all or is not producing enough blood cells. There are numerous ways that bone marrow can suffer damage that could lead to aplastic anemia. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments for cancer can damage the bone marrow and lead to this condition. Toxic chemical exposure, some antibiotics, viral infections, and autoimmune disorders are also possible causes of aplastic anemia. Pregnancy can even be a contributing factor.
People suffering from aplastic anemia often feel chronically fatigued and weak or tired. They may also feel short of breath, dizzy, suffer from headaches, or have an irregular heartbeat. Other common symptoms of aplastic anemia include nosebleeds, bleeding gums, chronic infections, excessive bleeding, easy bruising, and pale skin.
Aplastic anemia occurs when an individual’s bone marrow has been damaged to a point where new blood cell production is halted.
The damage that causes aplastic anemia can occur at any time, and in any person. Inherited forms of the condition (called inherited aplastic anemia) are more likely to occur in children and younger adults. Acquired forms (like infections, toxic chemicals, and certain prescribed medications) are more likely to occur in adults. In the United States, Americans of Asian descent are more likely to develop the condition. Issues with access to medical care make aplastic anemia a more common condition in developing nations than in developed nations.
There a Medications can help with the management and treatment of aplastic anemia. These drugs can help to encourage the growth of blood cells. They can also serve to suppress certain immune system functions that could prevent the bone marrow from producing sufficient red blood cells.
Blood transfusions and stem cell transplants
However, oftentimes, more aggressive treatments are necessary. This can include blood transfusions, and stem cell transplants. Blood transfusions can involve red blood cell transfusions or platelet transfusions.
Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
If chemotherapy or radiation therapy is to blame, the condition will often resolve itself when cancer treatments are complete and just needs to be monitored and managed until that time.
Currently, there is no known way to prevent aplastic anemia. Knowing what causes the damage that leads to it and taking steps to lessen the risk factors that can be controlled should help prevent some of the damage that causes it in the first place, though.