Aplastic anemia is an extremely rare type of anemia having as few as 20,000 cases per year. Aplastic anemia causes the body to stop producing enough new blood cells. It can stop producing one type of blood cell such as the red, white or platelets or it can stop producing all three. It is most common for the body to stop producing all three. Aplastic anemia is classified as a form of bone marrow failure.
Whose At Risk?
Aplastic anemia can happen to anyone at any age, though it is more common in children and young adults. There are two types of aplastic anemia, acquired and inherited. Acquired aplastic anemia is more common in adults. It usually is triggered by viruses, medications, toxic chemicals, or cancer treatment. Inherited aplastic anemia is a gene defect and usually starts showing symptoms in the first few years of life being mostly common in kids and young adults.
Causes of aplastic anemia can be caused by a number of different things. The main cause is the immune system starts attacking the stem cells in the bone marrow. Other causes are radiation, chemotherapy, toxic chemicals, or rheumatoid arthritis medication. Autoimmune disorders can also cause aplastic anemia, and so can a viral infection from viruses such as Epstein-Barr. Pregnancy can also lead to aplastic anemia, but symptoms usually go away when the pregnancy ends.
There are a number of different symptoms of aplastic anemia. Fatigue, shortness of breath, and frequent infections are some of the most common. Other symptoms are fast heart rate, or irregular heart rate, pale skin, unexplained bruising, nosebleeds, prolonged bleeding, skin rash, dizziness, headache, and fever. Symptoms can happen quickly or progress over time. Aplastic anemia can either become chronic or can be short lived once symptoms are treated.
Diagnosis is usually straight forward. Amount of blood cells can be tested from a blood draw. To confirm an aplastic anemia diagnosis though a bone marrow biopsy will also need to be done. This is when a part of your bone marrow is extracted by a big needle usually from your hip bone for it to then be tested. After the initial diagnosis you may go under some other tests to find out what the underlying cause of the condition is.
Treatment is dependent on the severity of your aplastic anemia. Most severe cases of aplastic anemia will need treatment immediately and you will be hospitalized. For less severe cases you may only need observation. Most people with aplastic anemia will need a blood transfusion at least once if not more often. Medications such as immunosuppressants, or antibiotics can also be used for treatment. Having a bone marrow transplant can help your body increase its ability to make blood cells. A bone marrow transplant can usually be done from a sibling, if you don’t have a family member that matches you will be put on a bone marrow transplant list to be matched. Aplastic anemia is not always chronic, with the right treatment you may be free of all symptoms.
There are some things you will want to do if you are living with aplastic anemia. Since people with aplastic anemia are more prone to infections you will want to make sure you protect yourself from germs. Make sure to wash your hands often, get your annual flu shot, and avoid crowds. Staying away from contact sports is also important since aplastic anemia can cause prolonged bleeding when injured, or unexplained bleeding. Before you go on an airplane flight you will want to speak with your doctor. The decreased levels of oxygen at the higher altitude may cause you to need a blood transfusion before you fly. Make sure you rest when needed, keeping your body’s energy up will help fight off infections, as well as let your body heal when needed.
Aplastic anemia is a very rare case of anemia. Though there aren’t very many cases of this type of anemia it is easily diagnosed as well as treated. Aplastic anemia can become chronic when the cause of the anemia is chronic as well. There are two main types of aplastic anemia, but both are treatable. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms that coincide with aplastic anemia speak to your doctor so you can go through the diagnosing process.
Autoimmune disorders can lead to Aplastic Anemia. Learn the signs to watch for here! #HealthStatus
Fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin, nosebleeds and unexplained bruising are symptoms of Aplastic Anemia.
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