Aplastic Anemia: Timely Treatment Can Lead to Cure
Aplastic Anemia is a rare blood disorder in which the stem cells found in the bone marrow do not make enough new blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. This can lead to several health issues such as heart failure, stroke, bleeding, or infection. A severe and long lasting aplastic anemia can even be fatal, if not timely treated.
Aplastic anemia is often misunderstood as a kind of cancer, as some of the treatment modes are similar to that of cancer such as bone marrow transplant and chemotherapy. It is important to note the disease is treatable if timely identified and diagnosed.
Who are at risk of Aplastic Anemia?
Aplastic anemia can occur at any age. It can be either inherited from your parents or acquired in course of time. Often, there are unknown factors for the disease, such aplastic anemia is known as idiopathic aplastic anemia.
Below are some the causes of acquired aplastic anemia:
- Chemo or radiation therapy given to cancer patients can lead to Aplastic Anemia as a temporary side effect of these treatments.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals such as those found in pesticides, insecticides, benzene in gasoline
- Intake of certain prescription drugs such as some antibiotics or those given to treat rheumatoid arthritis
- Autoimmune disorders, when your immune system starts attacking healthy stem cells in the bone marrow
- Viral infections such as hepatitis, certain herpes viruses, cytomegalovirus (CMV), or HIV etc., can damage the stem cells ability to produce healthy cells
Symptoms & Diagnosis of Aplastic Anemia
The diagnosis of Aplastic Anemia is done through blood tests and bone marrow biopsy. The disease can either develop gradually over weeks to months, or may surface suddenly. It is essential that the symptoms are not ignored, timely identified and diagnosed for getting best treatment results. The symptoms mostly resemble anemia.
- Fatigue, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest pain
- Pale skin
- Irregular heartbeat
- Enlarged heart
- Heart failure or stroke
Aplastic Anemia Treatment
Bone Marrow Transplant: A bone marrow transplant replaces the defected stem cells from your body with healthy stem cells from a donor. The donor can be a sibling, blood relative, or a volunteer whose bone marrow closely matches you. If the matching donor is not available, you may be recommended immunosuppressive therapy.
Immunosuppressive therapy: Immunosuppressants are recommended to those who cannot undergo BMT or stem cell transplant. It is also suggested when the cause of Aplastic Anemia is possibly an autoimmune disorder. The immunosuppressive therapy involves medicines that suppress the immune cells that are damaging your bone marrow. Gradually your bone marrow recovers and forms new blood cells.
Medications: Certain medicines can stimulate your bone marrow to start making new blood cells. These are known as bone marrow stimulants.
You may also be put on antibiotics or antivirals to prevent infections as Aplastic Anemia weakens your immune system making you vulnerable to infections.
Blood Transfusions: Pregnant women with aplastic anemia are suggested blood transfusions to restore blood cell counts to normal levels.