Aplastic Anemia

1 What is Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic anemia is a blood disorder in which bone marrow fails to produce sufficient blood cells.

It is characterized by chronic fatigue, uncontrolled bleeding, and increased susceptibility to infections.

It is a rare condition seem most commonly among young adults. Aplastic anemia may be acquired or inherited.

Defects in genes cause inherited aplastic anemia, while acquired aplastic anemia is triggered by problems in immune system.

This condition can be treated by prompt and proper treatment strategies.

Stem cell transplant, medications, and blood transfusions are used to treat this blood disorder. Severe form of aplastic anemia is potentially life-threatening. 

2 Symptoms

Symptoms of aplastic anemia may develop gradually or suddenly. Most common symptoms of aplastic anemia are

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3 Causes

Damage to bone marrow cells that produce blood cells cause aplastic anemia. Bone marrow damage may be caused by inherited problems or acquired conditions.

Defects in genes cause inherited bone marrow damage. Fanconi-anemia, Shwachman-Diamond syndrome, dyskeratosis congenita, and Diamond-Blackfan anemia are certain inherited conditions that lead to aplastic anemia.

Acquired conditions are more common and is caused by certain medical conditions, diseases, and other factors. Some causes of acquired conditions are

  • Autoimmune disorders like SLE and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Infectious diseases like hepatitis, cytomegalovirus infection, HIV, and Epstein-Barr virus infection
  • Certain medications like chloramphenicol
  • Toxins like pesticides and benzene
  • Radiation and chemotherapy
  • Cancer from other parts that spread to bone marrow
  • Pregnancy

Risk factors for aplastic anemia are radiation and chemotherapy, exposure to toxins, certain medications, autoimmune disorders, and pregnancy.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Blood tests and bone marrow biopsy are the diagnostic tests used in aplastic anemia.

A complete blood count (CBC) reveals less than normal levels of blood cells.

Bone marrow biopsy is the confirmatory diagnostic test. In this procedure, a small needle is inserted into a large bone to take a small sample of bone marrow.

Analysis of blood cells helps to rule out chances of other diseases that has similar symptoms. Additional tests are recommended based on the cause of aplastic anemia. 

5 Treatment

Treatment of aplastic anemia is based on severity of symptoms. Those with mild symptoms may not need any specific treatments. Moderate form is treated with blood transfusions and medications. Bone marrow transplantation is recommended in serious form of aplastic anemia.

Blood transfusion helps to control symptoms of anemia and to control bleeding. Red blood cell transfusion relieves symptoms of anemia like fatigue. Transfusion of platelets is suggested to control bleeding. Transfusion may lead to complications like iron overload and immune reaction.

Stem cell transplant or bone marrow transplant is recommended for people with severe aplastic anemia. In this procedure, affected bone marrow is treated with radiation or chemotherapy. Healthy stem cells from a matching donor is then injected into the blood stream of the patient. These cells migrate to the bone marrow cells and start producing healthy blood cells. To prevent rejection of the stem cells from the donor, medications are used. Rejection of stem cells from the donor may lead to complications.

Immunosuppressant medications like cyclosporine and anti-thymocyte globulin are used to treat aplastic anemia caused by autoimmune disorders. These medications suppress the functioning of immune system that affects bone marrow. The bone marrow starts producing healthy blood cells after a period of time. Corticosteroids are also given along with immunosuppressants.

Bone marrow-stimulating drugs like colony-stimulating factors trigger the production of new blood cells, and are suggested in the treatment of aplastic anemia. Sargramostim, filgrastim, pegfilgrastim, and epoetin alfa are used as bone marrow-stimulating medications.

Susceptibility to infections is one of the most common symptoms of aplastic anemia. This is controlled by antibiotics and antiviral which help to alleviate infections.

6 Prevention

Avoiding the risk factors of aplastic anemia like exposure to toxins helps to prevent the risk of developing aplastic anemia.

There are no other standard preventive measures for this blood disorder.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

Homoepathic remedies for aplastic anemia try to stimulate the bone marrow for the production of healthy blood cells.

  • Ferrum met,
  • china,
  • ferr-phos,
  • nitric acid,
  • plumbum met,
  • phosphorous,
  • kali carb,
  • nat mur,
  • and Ars iod are

used to treat the several symptoms of aplastic anemia. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

There are different ways to adapt your lifestyle in coping with aplastic anemia.

As fatigue is the most common symptom of the disease, taking adequate rest is important.

Avoiding strenuous physical exertion and contact sports helps to prevent shortness of breath and uncontrolled bleeding.

Take adequate precaution to prevent infections. Understand more about the disease and treatment options.

You may need to seek support of family and friends, particularly if stem cell transplantation is required.

Proper nutrition is also needed to improve the symptoms. 

9 Risk and Complications

Infection and excessive bleeding are life-threatening complications of aplastic anemia.

Bone marrow transplantation may lead to graft-versus host disease, or graft failure.

Aplastic anemia is associated with other conditions like Paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria and myelodysplastic syndrome. 

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