Aplastic anemia is a condition that is caused when the production of the new blood cells in the body gets reduced. This condition causes fatigue and raises the risk of infection and uncontrolled bleeding amongst other dangerous complications.
Although, this is a rare condition, it often becomes dangerous if left untreated for long. This condition can develop at any age and may occur suddenly or develop over a period of time.
Signs and Symptoms of Aplastic Anemia
These are the commonly seen signs and symptoms of aplastic anemia:
- Rapid/irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- Unexplained bruising
- Prolonged/frequent infections
- Nosebleeds and gum-bleeding
- Skin rash
- Uncontrolled bleeding from minor cuts
This condition usually develops steadily over a few weeks or a couple of months, or it may occur suddenly. This condition can be short or it may become chronic. If left untreated, aplastic anemia can be often dangerous and fatal.
Causes of Aplastic Anemia
Aplastic anemia is seen to develop mostly when there is damage to the bone marrow, which results in the production of blood cells being affected. Aplastic anemia causes the bone marrow to lose its function of producing healthy and new blood cells for the body.
These are certain factors that may, permanently or temporarily, injure the bone marrow and affect the production of new red blood cells:
- Radiation/chemotherapy Treatment – These methods are used to treat certain cancerous conditions by killing the cancerous cells, but can also result in damaging the surrounding healthy cells, including the stem cells in the bone marrow. This can cause temporary decrease in production of the new blood cells and aplastic anemia.
- Chemical Exposure – Exposure to certain harmful chemicals, such as several insecticides and pesticides, may also give rise to aplastic anemia in some cases. This can usually get treated on its own if the exposure to the chemical causing it is stopped.
- Medicinal Drugs – Certain medicinal drugs, especially those used for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis and several antibiotics, can also cause aplastic anemia.
- Autoimmune Disorder – An autoimmune disorder can also affect the blood cell-producing ability of the body.
- Viral Infection – Viral infections of the bone marrow also cause aplastic anemia in certain cases, such as HIV and B19 virus.
- Pregnancy – An underlying autoimmune disorder may cause the rate of blood cells production to drop during pregnancy, causing aplastic anemia.
Diagnosing Aplastic Anemia
These are the commonly performed diagnostic tests to determine the presence of aplastic anemia in a person:
- Blood Tests – These help to check the level of the various types of blood cells in the bloodstream and can help detect an abnormally low red blood cell count.
- Bone Marrow Biopsy – In order to confirm the presence of aplastic anemia the doctor may also choose to perform a bone marrow biopsy. This requires using a thin and strong needle to remove a sample of bone marrow from one of the larger bones in the body (hipbone, etc).
Aplastic Anemia Treatment procedures
There are various options of treatment for aplastic anemia, such as blood transfusions, for mild cases. However, the more severe cases of aplastic anemia require bone marrow transplant.
This procedure is useful for controlling the uncontrollable bleeding and the other anemia-related symptoms. This is not a cure for anemia but is a palliative care method.
A blood transfusion might be required for red blood cells, which helps to raise the count of the red blood cells in the blood which in turn helps to relieve fatigue and anemia. Or it may be required to raise the number of platelets in the body to help it prevent excessive bleeding.
A blood transfusion procedure requires extreme care and experience as too many sessions of blood transfusions can also give rise to certain complications that can prove dangerous and fatal even.
Stem Cell Transplant
The stem cell transplant procedure is used to restore the production of bone marrow with the help of stem cells taken from a donor and is an ideal treatment method for severe cases of aplastic anemia.
This treatment technique is used when there is a compatible donor available that can provide the required amount of stem cells. The doctor will initially decrease the diseased bone marrow material using radiation or chemotherapy. The donor stem cells are processed and filtered for impurities, etc. the next step involves injecting the processed and purified stem cells in the blood stream of the patient. These stem cells automatically migrate to the cavities left by the removed diseased bone marrow and begin to produce new blood cells in a short time.
This treatment method carries a risk of the stem cells being rejected as well as other complications.
This treatment is ideal for patient who cannot undergo a bone marrow transplant as well as for those whose condition of aplastic anemia is caused largely due to an autoimmune disorder. This treatment method may involve the use of certain medicinal drugs that change/suppress the functions of the immune system of the body.
The suppression of the immune system affords the body to recover from the damage and allows the bone marrow to produce the new blood cells again.
Aplastic Anemia Treatment in India
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