Aplastic Anemia is evident as infections and uncontrolled bleeding
Aplastic anemia is a condition where the body fails to produce new blood cells. Aplastic anemia is a rare condition that can be found in people of any age. The symptoms of aplastic anemic include, fatigue, high rate of infections and uncontrolled bleeding. The common treatments for aplastic anemia include medications, blood transfusions and stem cell transplant.
When the bone marrow is damaged the production of new blood cells is halted. Bone marrow is present in the middle of the bones. It is a red colored spongy material that helps in the production of stem cells, which in-turn produce new blood cells (white blood cells, red blood cells and platelets). The diseased condition of bone marrow is described as aplastic (empty) and hypoplastic (very few blood cells).
The bone marrow is injured or destroyed due to several factors like exposure to radiation, undergoing chemotherapy treatments, exposure to toxic chemicals, autoimmune disorders, viral infections (hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19 and HIV), and pregnancy.
The symptoms of aplastic anemia include, fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid or irregular heart rate, pale skin, frequent or prolonged infections, easy bruising, nosebleeds and bleeding gums, prolonged bleeding from cuts, skin rashes and dizziness, and headache.
RISK FACTORS & COMPLICATIONS
There are a number of risk factors and complications that may lead to aplastic anemia. Some of the potential risk factors include high dose radiation or chemotherapy for cancer, exposure to toxic chemicals, use of some prescription drugs especially to treat bacterial infections and rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune disorders, and pregnancy.
TESTS & DIAGNOSIS
The basic test for aplastic anemia is to conduct a blood test to check the presence of blood cells. If there is considerable fall in the number of blood cells, it is an important sign of the occurrence of aplastic anemia. Bone marrow biopsy is another valid test advised by the doctors. If the bone marrow contains fewer blood cells than normal it is taken for aplastic anemia.
Once the patient is diagnosed for aplastic anemia, the doctor advises on the right treatment process. Blood transfusions are a temporary solution that help with fresh supply of red blood cells and platelets. However, the accumulation of iron in the body due to blood transfusion needs to be treated by the doctor. The doctor prescribes immunosuppressant drugs to fight antibodies to transfused blood cells.
A long-term solution for aplastic anemia is definitely stem cell transplant. First, the patient’s bone marrow is depleted with radiation or chemotherapy. This is followed by injecting healthy stem cells into the bloodstream, which settle in the bone marrow and start producing new blood cells. Immunosuppressant drugs are prescribed to prevent rejection of the donated stem cells.
In addition to antibiotics and antivirals that help to fight infections, sometimes bone marrow stimulants are also prescribed to patients, which help the bone marrow to produce new blood cells. However, on a case to case basis, the right course of treatment is followed. For example, pregnant women with aplastic anemia are treated with blood transfusions.