Causes and symptoms of aplastic anemia - information, treatments and cures

A diagram on how aplastic anemia works.
A diagram on how aplastic anemia works.

Living with Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia is a severe form of a well-known disease. With this condition, a patient has a low count of white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets. The disease affects people in their teens and 20's, though older people can get the disease.

Treatment for the disease has a high success rate: about 70%. The treatment is through immunosuppressive drugs,

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Symptoms

The most noticeable sign of aplastic anemia is a feeling of extreme tiredness. Often times, patients are unable to get out of the bed in the morning due to excessive fatigue. People with the disease tend to have pale skin, bruising and nose bleeds. Rapid heart rate and shortness of breath are all associated with the condition.

Symptoms are not always gradual. They may appear suddenly, though often times, they gradually appear over the course of several weeks.

Informative video on aplastic anemia

Summary

  • It is most common in teenagers and people in their 20's.
  • Diagnosis is made from a blood cell count and bone marrow biopsy.
  • Symptoms include extreme fatigue, bruising and even nose bleeds.


Frequency of aplastic anemia in the United States, sorted by state.
Frequency of aplastic anemia in the United States, sorted by state.

Diagnosis

If a doctor suspects the patient has aplastic anemia, he will order a bone marrow biopsy and blood test. The blood test measures the number a red and white blood cells as well as platelets present in the blood. A bone marrow biopsy is performed with sedatives to lessen the pain of the procedure. A sample is usually taken from a large bone, such as the hip bone. This gives the examiner easier access to a sample.

Fewer cells present in bone marrow could be cause for concern, because individuals with the disease usually have fewer cells compared to their healthy peers.

Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the severity of the symptoms in a patient. For extreme cases, immediate hospitalization is required. A common treatment for severe to moderate aplastic anemia are blood transfusions. Blood transfusions do not cure the symptoms, but they provide a dramatic relief of symptoms associated with the disease.

It is possible a doctor may prescribe steroids to be taken with immunosuppressant drugs drugs to suppress symptoms.

As a worse case scenario, a bone marrow transplant may be needed. Over 80% of people who get a bone marrow transplant for aplastic anemia do not see returning symptoms.

Even so, if no treatment works, it is possible for the disease to be fatal.

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