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Blood Platelet Disorders
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Aplastic Anemia

What is Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic Anemia causes the bone marrow to cease producing an adequate supply of all three types of blood cells. The cells which are produced are normal and healthy, just inadequate in number. This deficiency has been categorized in three parts; moderate, severe, and very severe. In the very severe stage, infections and/or intense bleeding can be life-threatening. Occurring in 3 out of every 1,000,000 Americans, Aplastic Anemia certainly qualifies as rare. However, unlike  other blood diseases mentioned here, people of any age can be affected.

Healthy bone marrow must maintain a constant state of new blood cell production because of the extremely brief cell lifespan (just days long). With a less than adequate blood cell count, a patient may develop any of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath, tiring easily, paleness of skin tone – from shortage of red blood cells.
  • Frequent or severe infections – from shortage of white blood cells.
  • Easy bleeding or bruising and tiny red spots under the skin, called petachiae – from low  platelet count.

Aplastic Anemia Causes

Researchers are still attempting to identify all the possible causes of Aplastic Anemia. Aside from autoimmune disorder, where the white blood cells attack the bone marrow, radiation and/or exposure to benzene have both been found to be direct causes. This disease is present in 2% of patients diagnosed with viral hepatitis. And, at the bottom of the cause probability list, research has found isolated cases of this type of anemia in patients who have undergone drug therapy involving quinine, phenylbutazone, chloramphenicol, carbamazepine, and phenytoin.

Diagnosis involves laboratory examination of bone marrow samples. Aspiration and biopsy is accomplished, by way of needle insertion, is the out-patient procedure used by the blood disorder specialist (a hematologist). The sample is drawn from the large pelvic bone located just below the belt line on either side of the spine.

Aplastic Anemia Treatment

The degree of anemia severity will determine the options available for treatment. At the moderate stage, regular blood counts and close monitoring are routinely recommended. The following are the options for the two more severe stages:

  • Supportive care -  the patient is kept stable until any further treatment can be initiated. 
  • Immunosuppresive therapy -  drugs are used to suppress the immune system.
  • Bone marrow transplant (BMT) – (80 to 90% long-term survival rate among adults).

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Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow's blood-forming cells stop producing new blood cells
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