1. Aplastic Anemia is a condition in which the bone marrow does not make enough new blood cells because the bone marrow’s stem cells are damaged.
2. The cause of the damage can be acquired or inherited. “Acquired” means you aren’t born with the condition, but you develop it. “Inherited” means your parents passed the gene for the condition on to you.
3. Bone marrow is a red, spongy material inside your bones that produces stem cells, which give rise to other cells. Stem cells in the bone marrow produce blood cells — red cells, white cells and platelets.
4. The term “anemia” refers to a condition in which your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells. In Aplastic Anemia, bone marrow is described in medical terms as aplastic or hypoplastic — meaning that it’s empty or contains very few blood cells. Anemia also can occur if your red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin, the iron-
5. Anyone can get Aplastic Anemia, but it’s more likely to happen to people in their late teens and early 20s, and the elderly. Males and females have about an equal chance of getting it. It is more common in developing countries.
6. Aplastic Anemia can progress slowly over weeks or months, or it may come on suddenly. The illness may be brief, or it may become chronic. Aplastic anemia can be very severe and even fatal.
7. Between 600 and 900 people are diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia each year in the United States.
Factors that can temporarily or permanently injure bone marrow and affect blood cell production include:
* Radiation and chemotherapy (treatments for cancer).
* Exposure to toxins such as pesticides, arsenic, and benzene.
* Use of certain drugs, such as those used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and some antibiotics.
* Infectious diseases, such as hepatitis, Epstein-
* Autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
* Pregnancy. Aplastic Anemia that occurs in pregnancy may be related to an autoimmune problem — your immune system may attack your bone marrow during pregnancy.
* Unknown factors. In many cases, doctors aren’t able to identify the cause. This is called idiopathic Aplastic Anemia.
* Sometimes, cancer from another part of the body can spread to the bone marrow.
Symptoms of Aplastic Anemia may include:
* Shortness of breath with exertion
* Irregular heart rate
* Pale skin
* Frequent or prolonged infections
* Unexplained or easy bruising
* Easy bleeding and nosebleeds
* Chest pain
Treatments for Aplastic Anemia may include:
* Blood transfusions
* Blood and marrow stem cell transplants
* Drug therapies.
You and your family are key players in your child’s medical care. Make an appointment with your child’s doctor if you notice any persistent signs and symptoms that concern you. Specialists in bone marrow failure diseases such as Aplastic Anemia, MDS, and PNH are hematologists (doctors specializing in blood diseases) and oncologists (doctors specializing in cancer).
Where can I find more information about Aplastic Anemia?
National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute