Everything You Need To Know About Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia is a rare and serious blood disorder in which the body's bone marrow fails to produce new blood cells. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD), bone marrow is found in the middle of the bones of the body, and it is a spongy-like substance. Bone marrow contains stem cells that help produce more cells, like red and white blood cells, and platelets. However, with aplastic anemia, stem cells are damaged, meaning the bone marrow is empty or low on those important cells (per Mayo Clinic).

Red and white blood cells and platelets are vital to the body because they help provide oxygen, fight infections, and create blood clots to stop bleeding. When these aren't being made properly, the body is at serious risk, and possibly a fatal one. Symptoms of aplastic anemia vary, with some being more severe than others, and some people having no symptoms at all. Some symptoms of aplastic anemia include tiredness, headache, pale skin, rash, dizziness, easy bruising, and fever, Mayo Clinic reports. While each aplastic anemia case is different, there's also the possibility of experiencing uncontrolled bleeding, rapid heart rate, shortness of breath, and frequent infections.

Penn Medicine suggests seeing a doctor if you experience frequent infections or intense fatigue, and visiting the emergency room if you experience unexplained or uncontrollable bleeding.

Causes and treatment of aplastic anemia

There are many possible causes behind aplastic anemia, but they can be difficult to pinpoint. According to Cedars-Sinai, medical history, exposure to toxins or radiation, and genetics can all play a role in the development of aplastic anemia. The rare condition has been linked to family inheritance and medical history relating to autoimmune diseases, taking specific medications, or having an infectious disease such as HIV. There are also cases when aplastic anemia shows up for no apparent reason.

Milder cases of aplastic anemia may not need treatment (per NORD), but many patients will need some type of treatment, such as blood infusions. A doctor may prescribe medications or hormones to help your body produce more cells, and antibiotics to help fight off any infections, WebMD reports. A bone marrow or stem cell transplant is also a possibility if your doctor finds your blood count to be low.

Those with the disorder must live a more careful life, such as refraining from contact sports, avoiding crowds, and avoiding flights due to high elevation and less oxygen. Since aplastic anemia weakens your immune system, Mayo Clinic advises that people with the condition see their doctors immediately if they develop any signs of infection, such as a fever. If an infection becomes worse, it can become life-threatening.