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Aplastic Anaemia: A Rare and Serious Blood Disorder Targeting Youths?

Let us first know what anaemia is?

aplastic-anemia-a-rare-and-serious-blood-disorder-targeting-youths

Aplastic anaemia is a rare and serious blood disorder which knows no age boundaries by targetting people mainly at a young age. Adults and older adults may also acquire it. Aplastic anaemia is one of the types of anaemia. In the common medical world, the word anaemia is frequently used by healthcare professionals to describe everyday fatigue and tiredness like issues. A large population suffers from anaemia. It could be for the short term or long term. So, before throwing light on aplastic anaemia, let us first know about anaemia?

Anaemia

Anaemia is a condition in which the body has a low amount of red blood cells. Haemoglobin is the central protein part of red blood cells. It carries oxygen to the tissues and organs of the body. When haemoglobin is low in the blood test report, it means tissues and organs of the body are not getting enough oxygen to function efficiently. Hence the person starts suffering from symptoms like fatigue or shortness of breath.

Anaemia is a common blood disease in America. 6% of the population in America suffers from anaemia.

aplastic-anemia-a-rare-and-serious-blood-disorder-targeting-youths

Symptoms of anaemia

There are many types of anaemia. Some are mild and short term such as during the phase of pregnancy which is common and is not a major concern. But some can cause great implications and are of major concern depending upon the symptoms and causes of anaemia.

Symptoms of Anaemia:

Symptoms of anaemia are very common, so many times they are left unnoticed.

Continuous fatigue or tiredness

Headache

Shortness of breath

Joints pain, belly pain, chest pain

Trouble in the growth of children or teens

Weakness

Pale/yellow skin

There are around 400 different kinds of anaemia depending upon the causes.

Causes

There are around 400 different kinds of anaemia depending upon the causes.

Anaemia caused due to blood loss such as in conditions like ulcers, inflammation, cancer, etc.

In women due to periods.

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Post-surgery.

Anaemia is caused due to problems in bone marrow or stem cells which leads to depletion in red blood cell production/defaulted red blood cell production like in aplastic anaemia, sickle cell anaemia, iron-deficiency anaemia and vitamin deficiency anaemia.

Anaemia in individuals with chronic medical conditions such as advanced kidney/liver diseases, heart diseases, cancers, tumours, immune system-related diseases like AIDS, clotting disorders, etc.

Treatment of all mild types of anaemia can be easily carried out through drugs/supplements and changes in diet.

But in the case of aplastic anaemia drugs play the role only to a certain limit. And when intense, it may lead to serious health problems even in people at young age/teens. It weakens the immune system to such an extent that daily life activities become an arduous challenge even in young-aged people. However, with the rocket speed advancement in medical science, luckily it is a treatable disorder. When diagnosed at an early phase, oral drugs can play an entire role in treatment. So, it's very important to know about what a rare disease aplastic anaemia is? Its symptoms, causes, treatment and prevention.

Aplastic anaemia

aplastic-anemia-a-rare-and-serious-blood-disorder-targeting-youths

The bones of our body have spongy stuff inside called bone marrow. Bone marrow is of two types red bone marrow and yellow bone marrow. Yellow bone marrow mainly has fat. Red bone marrow has blood stem cells that become red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body parts needed for their proper functioning. White blood cells act as a defence system against infection and platelets help in the clotting of blood to prevent blood loss. So, bone marrow is an extremely important part of our body.

When bone marrow in bone stops producing new blood cells, sometimes not just one type but all three, it leads to a rare blood disorder known as aplastic anaemia. If the blood counts get extremely low it could be life-threatening.

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Who is at the higher risk of getting it?

Aplastic anaemia may develop gradually or grab you suddenly. It mostly happens in the late teenage or 20s. May also happen in elder people. Men and women have an equal probability of acquiring it. It is most prevalent in developing countries.

Types of Aplastic anaemia

Aplastic anaemia can be of two types:

- Inherited aplastic anaemia

- Acquired aplastic anaemia

Inherited aplastic anaemia which happens due to faults in genes; occurs mostly in young adults and children. In this type of anaemia proper follow up with the health care professional should be maintained as many times it leads to other forms of cancer such as leukaemia.

Problems in the immune system lead to acquired aplastic anaemia. According to researchers certain viruses like HIV, and Epstein Barr trigger problems in the immune system. Radiation and chemotherapy in cancer, exposure to toxic chemicals and certain medicines may also contribute to triggering problems in the immune system leading to the condition called acquired aplastic anaemia. It mostly occurs in young adults.

Symptoms

All three types of blood cells have different roles in the body.

As stated earlier, red blood cells carry oxygen to all body parts for their proper functioning.

White blood cells fight and protect the body against infections.

Platelet helps in controlling blood loss by preventing bleeding.

Thus symptoms depend upon which type of blood cells an individual is low on. However, the patient is low on all the three types, causing symptoms such as

Shortness of breath

Fatigue

Pale/yellow skin

Headache

Chest pain

Slow or irregular heartbeat

Frequent infections

Fever

Problems in the clotting of blood/bleeding

Frequent nose bleeding.

aplastic-anemia-a-rare-and-serious-blood-disorder-targeting-youths

Diagnosis

On experiencing such symptoms your doctor may carry out CBC (complete blood count) test to know the exact count of all three types of blood cells.

They may also do a bone marrow biopsy in which a small sample of the bone marrow inside our bones is taken by inserting a small needle in the bone to have a detailed look at the nature of the disorder.

Treatment

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Treatment mainly depends upon the identification of the cause that is triggering the problem. If your consultant successfully identifies the correct cause that is triggering the problem in the immune system and successfully fixes it, your condition can be cured then.

But sometimes identification of the cause becomes tedious.

If your blood count is not heavily low. Your condition can be cured with some changes in diet and followed by a few supplements.

In cases that are treatable with drugs, doctors prescribe certain hormones/drugs to help bone marrow produce sufficient blood cells.

But if your blood count is very low and your bone marrow is unable to produce new blood cells your doctor may suggest a bone marrow/stem cell transplant.

Bone marrow transplant

Bone marrow transplantation is the main effective cure for aplastic anaemia. In this form of treatment patient's inefficient bone marrow is destroyed with radiation, and is transplanted with the donor's efficient bone marrow to make blood cells. The donor's blood should be a good match to the recipient's blood. The donor is from the family/close relative/sibling.

The patient's new bone marrow starts producing blood cells and the condition gets improved gradually after a few episodes of relapse. However, a bone marrow transplant is successful in young aged individuals. Those above the age of 40 may not experience a successful cure with this form of treatment.

The second form of treatment is blood transfusion.

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Blood transfusion

In this form of treatment, the patient is provided with the new blood through the tiny tube placed inside the blood vessels. The blood transfusion process provides immediate recovery to the patient with extremely low blood cells count. But it is not the long term solution to the problem.

Medical Therapy

Candidates who cannot undergo bone marrow transplants are prescribed immune suppressor drugs such as anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) or cyclosporine. However, these drug therapies are not the complete cure for aplastic anaemia. They respond partially by restoring blood count followed by episodes of relapse in between. The side-effect is the patient may also develop other blood-related malignancies/disorders along with it.

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Precautions to be taken to avoid your aplastic anaemia from getting worse

Avoid sports/outdoor activities to avoid easy bruising and bleeding.

Wash hands often to avoid infections.

Get annual flu shots.

Avoid crowds as much as possible.

Consult with your doctor before taking a flight or travelling to areas where oxygen is low, especially areas with higher elevation.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

© 2022 Atiya Hilal

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