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What is Aplastic Anemia?

Posted Feb 20 2010 8:41pm

Aplastic Anemia is a rare but serious condition in which your body stops producing enough new blood cells.  It is most common in young people but it can develop at any age. The disease can have a sudden onset or progress slowly and develop symptoms over a period of weeks or months.   It can be either acute or chronic, but without treatment the possibility for it to progress and become fatal is very real.

Aplastic Anemia

Causes of Aplastic Anemia

Bone marrow is responsible for producing the stem cells which produce our blood cells.  Red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets are all are all necessary to our body. We either use or absorb these cells over time; Red blood cells are replaced approximately every 120 days, most of our white blood cells are replaced every day and our platelets live about 7 days before they are replaced. When the bone marrow’s ability to replace these cells is affected the result is aplastic anemia.

There are several factors that can affect or injure the bone marrow.  Autoimmune disorders can cause the immune system to turn on itself, attacking healthy cells.  Viral infections such as Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis, HIV and others that affect bone marrow can cause an onset of this type of anemia.

Sometimes medical treatment received for other conditions such as cancer can damage our healthy cells while fighting off the other disease.  Radiation and chemotherapy treatments are examples of this.  When this is the cause, the anemia is usually a temporary side effect and not permanent.

Exposure to toxic chemical such as those found in gasoline, pesticides and insecticides can cause injury to the bone marrow, leading to this condition.  Usually, this type will resolve itself by limiting the exposure to the causative agent.

Symptoms of Aplastic Anemia

Due to insufficient red blood cells in the body you will experience fatigue, pale skin, rapid or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath upon exertion, dizziness or headaches.

Low white blood cells can increase the development of infections.   White blood cells are what our body uses to fight infection.  The ability to fight any infection is impaired and you will have prolonged illness and infection.

Due to low platelets, which are necessary for the clotting of blood you will have increased bleeding times, irregular bleeding such as nosebleeds or bleeding gums, you will bruise easily or have unexplained bruising.  You may notice a rash under your skin known as petechiae.

Treatment of Aplastic Anemia

Due to advances in medicine and treatment the condition is no longer considered fatal, the prognosis of those with aplastic anemia is much better today.  Treatment can include medications, blood transfusions and even bone marrow transplant.  Since the ability to fight infections is impaired it is necessary to prevent them and to treat them quickly and aggressively if they do occur.

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