Is Idiopathic Aplastic Anemia?
Idiopathic aplastic anemia is a type of anemia in which your bone
marrow stops making new blood cells. This can cause major health complications.
People with anemia don’t have enough functioning red blood cells
(RBCs). RBCs are responsible for carrying oxygen. When you are anemic, your
body does not transport oxygen efficiently and this can make you tired and
RBCs carry oxygen using a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin
is necessary for efficient oxygen transport. It tightly binds oxygen in areas
with high oxygen and then releases it in areas that need oxygen. Hemoglobin
also makes your blood look red.
Hemoglobin contains iron, which is necessary for hemoglobin to
bind oxygen. Many cases of anemia stem from an iron deficiency. These types of
anemia are easily treatable. However, aplastic anemia starts with a bone marrow
problem and it is not caused by iron deficiency.
The condition is rare, but it can be fatal if left untreated. If
you have symptoms of aplastic anemia, see your doctor right away.
of Aplastic Anemia
The symptoms of aplastic anemia are similar to those of general
anemia. When your RBC count is low, you may experience:
- excessive fatigue
- sensitivity to cold temperatures
- rapid heart rate
- shortness of breath
Low platelet counts can cause:
- nose bleeds
- bleeding in the gums
- the skin to bruise easily
- rash with small pinpoints
The effects of idiopathic aplastic anemia on WBC levels are not
easy to detect. However, with fewer WBCs you will be more susceptible to
of Aplastic Anemia
Aplastic anemia is caused by damage to the bone marrow.
Stem cells in the marrow normally make blood cells, including:
- red blood cells (RBCs)
- white blood cells (WBCs)
This process is disrupted in people with aplastic anemia. Stem
cells are damaged and too few blood cells are made.
Numerous conditions can damage your bone marrow. In people with
idiopathic aplastic anemia, the cause of that damage is often unknown and
several factors have been linked to it.
Some scientists believe that aplastic anemia may be an autoimmune
condition. In autoimmune diseases, the body attacks its own cells like an
infection. Other possible causes include:
- a reaction to some drugs used to treat
arthritis, epilepsy, or infection; or to
toxic chemicals used in industry or
farming, such as benzene, solvents, or glue vapors
- exposure to radiation or chemotherapy for cancer
- anorexia nervosa, a severe eating disorder that has
been associated with aplastic anemia
- some viruses like Epstein-Barr, HIV, or other
Although rare, it is possible that aplastic anemia can be
inherited. Aplastic anemia is not caused by iron deficiency.
Idiopathic Aplastic Anemia
All types of anemia are first diagnosed with a blood test. A complete blood count (CBC) will
show if you have low levels of RBCs, WBCs, or platelets.
Once anemia is diagnosed, it’s important to determine its cause.
If your doctor suspects aplastic anemia, you may need a bone marrow biopsy. A
needle will be inserted into your hip bone to collect the marrow. The sample
will be examined to see how many stem cells are present.
Your doctor will classify your idiopathic aplastic anemia as
acute or chronic. Acute cases come on suddenly and they are quite severe.
Chronic cases develop more slowly. However, they are just as difficult to treat.
Options for Aplastic Anemia
Treatment depends on the severity of your condition. Some mild
forms of aplastic anemia don’t require treatment. Stopping a medication or
staying away from possible chemicals may be recommended. Many moderate cases
require blood and platelet transfusions. Transfusions are generally necessary
for acute cases.
Bone marrow transplants can be used to treat severe cases. This procedure
replaces your stem cells with those from a donor. The treatment works best in people
under 40 years who have sibling donors.
Severe and acute idiopathic aplastic anemia can be fatal. Proper
treatment is key. Younger people have the best survival rates, as they generally
respond well to treatment.
Potential treatment complications include:
- adverse drug reactions
- severe bleeding
- bone marrow transplant failure
There is no known way to prevent idiopathic aplastic anemia.
Unlike other forms of anemia, it can’t be prevented by using iron supplements.
Pay attention to your body and talk to your doctor if you develop
anemia symptoms. Prompt treatment can help keep you feeling well.