In aplastic anemia, production of red blood cells in the bone marrow decreases considerably. The heaviest form of this disease is secondary aplastic anemia that results from bone marrow damage due to medications taken by the patient to treat another disorder.
It can also occur if a patient accidentally eats a poisonous substance or is exposed to some chemical or radiation. In this case, the function of the bone marrow breaks down.
Another form of this disease is primary aplastic anemia (or idiopathic aplastic anemia). The cause and nature of this form of disease are not known and it is therefore more difficult to treat it than secondary aplastic anemia.
Symptoms are divided into three main groups: lack of red cells produces anemia symptoms; lack of white cells leads to susceptibility to infections, especially mouth and throat; lack of platelets leads to spontaneous blood flow and bleeding – often from the nose or mouth.
Secondary aplastic anemia is much more common than primary, although both forms are rare. Of the secondary aplastic anemia, one in 25,000 people suffer annually.
The mild form of aplastic anemia usually disappears after treatment. Severe aplastic anemia is very dangerous. In 50% of cases, that are diagnosed as severe, the patient dies of infection or severe bleeding.
What to do?
If you have any of the symptoms described, contact a physician who will refer you to blood tests and bone marrow biopsy for diagnosis.
In mild cases of secondary aplastic anemia, the patient will often recover without treatment if the cause of the underlying disease is removed. People with the primary form of this disease can also spontaneously recover, though such a probability is less.
In all cases with severe symptoms, anemia and bleeding will be treated with blood transfusions; the patient stays briefly in the hospital. Infections are treated with antibiotics. If the condition does not improve over the course of a few weeks, drugs to stimulate bone marrow function are given. Medication therapy allows many patients to remain relatively healthy, which means they are active for a number of years, and a certain percentage of patients can be fully recovered.
If the drugs fail to achieve normal cell production in the bone marrow, young and otherwise healthy people may try to convey bone marrow. The bone marrow of a donor (usually a brother or sister) is injected into the patient’s vein and the cells through the blood penetrate to his bone marrow. This procedure will be successful if healthy, new bone marrow generates an increasing amount of blood cells. Unfortunately, this procedure is sometimes unsuccessful because it is very complex and must only be done at a special hospital.