Aplastic Anemia

Definition

Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBC). RBCs carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When RBCs are low, the body does not get enough oxygen. Aplastic anemia is a type of anemia caused by problems with bone marrow. It can range from mild to severe.
Location of Active Bone Marrow in an Adult
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Causes

Aplastic anemia is believed to be caused by the patient’s immune system attacking the bone marrow. It slows down the production of blood cells. In some cases, aplastic anemia is a temporary side effect of a medication. It can be reversed if exposure to the cause is stopped.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chances of having aplastic anemia include:
  • Exposure to certain environmental toxins such as those found in gasoline, paint, oil and coal emissions, and industrial solvents
  • High dose radiation and chemotherapy treatments
  • Certain viruses
  • Certain medications such as antibiotics, some illegal drugs, and medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis
  • Bone marrow diseases
  • Pregnancy
The cause of aplastic anemia is sometimes unknown.

Symptoms

Symptoms of aplastic anemia include:
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath with activity
  • Weakness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Pale skin
  • Easy bruising
  • Nosebleeds and bleeding gums
  • Lengthy bleeding from cuts
  • Skin rash
  • Fever
  • Shortened attention span

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: After you are diagnosed with aplastic anemia, you may need additional tests to determine the cause.You will be referred to a blood disorder specialist, a hematologist, or a special treatment center for further evaluation.

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