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What is aplastic anemia?

Compliments of the season to our resilient doctor. Thank you for being there no matter the season or circumstance. Recently in Nigeria, many people especially…

Compliments of the season to our resilient doctor. Thank you for being there no matter the season or circumstance. Recently in Nigeria, many people especially young men suffer from aplastic anemia. Please provide insights to this problem.
Agnes H.
Aplastic anemia is a condition that occurs when your body stops producing enough new blood cells. It leaves you feeling fatigued and with a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding. The disease can develop at any age. Aplastic anemia may occur suddenly, or it can occur slowly and get worse over a long period of time.
Some of its symptoms are:
1.       Fatigue.
2.       Shortness of breath with exertion.
3.       Rapid or irregular heart rate.
4.       Pale skin.
5.       Frequent or prolonged infections.
6.       Unexplained or easy bruising.
7.       Nosebleeds and bleeding gums.
8.       Prolonged bleeding from cuts.
9.       Skin rash.
10.    Dizziness.
11.    Headache.
Aplastic anemia can progress slowly over weeks or months, or it may come on suddenly. The illness may be brief, or it may become chronic.
Aplastic anemia develops when damage occurs to your bone marrow, slowing or shutting down the production of new blood cells. Bone marrow is a red, spongy material inside your bones that produces stem cells, which give rise to other cells. Stem cells in the bone marrow produce blood cells – red cells, white cells and platelets.
Factors that can temporarily or permanently injure bone marrow and affect blood cell production include:
1.       Radiation and chemotherapy treatments.
2.       Exposure to toxic chemicals such as pesticides and insecticides, may cause aplastic anemia.
3.       Use of certain drugs. Some medications, such as those used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and some antibiotics, can cause aplastic anemia.
4.       Autoimmune disorders. An autoimmune disorder, in which your immune system begins attacking healthy cells, may involve stem cells in your bone marrow.
5.       A viral infection with hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19 and HIV.
6.       Unknown factors. In many cases, doctors aren’t able to identify the cause of aplastic anemia. This is called idiopathic aplastic anemia.
Risk factors
1.       Treatment with high-dose radiation or chemotherapy for cancer.
2.       Exposure to toxic chemicals.
3.       The use of some prescription drugs – such as chloramphenicol, which is used to treat bacterial infections, and gold compounds used to treat rheumatoid arthritis.
4.       Certain blood diseases, autoimmune disorders and serious infections.
5.       And rarely, pregnancy.
To diagnose aplastic anemia, your doctor may recommend:
1.       Blood tests.
2.       Bone marrow biopsy. To confirm a diagnosis, you’ll need to undergo a bone marrow biopsy. To do this procedure, the doctor uses a needle to remove a small sample of bone marrow from a large bone in your body, such as your hipbone. The bone marrow sample is examined under a microscope to rule out other blood-related diseases. In aplastic anemia, bone marrow contains fewer blood cells than normal.
Treatments for aplastic anemia may include the following:
1.       Blood transfusions
Treatment for aplastic anemia usually involves blood transfusions to control bleeding and relieve anemia symptoms. Blood transfusions aren’t a cure for aplastic anemia. But they do relieve signs and symptoms by providing blood cells that your bone marrow isn’t producing.
 2.       Stem cell transplant
A stem cell transplant to rebuild the bone marrow with stem cells from a donor may offer the only successful treatment option for people with severe aplastic anemia. A stem cell transplant, which is also called a bone marrow transplant, is generally the treatment of choice for people who are younger and have a matching donor – most often a sibling.
 3.       Bone marrow stimulants
Certain drugs may help stimulate the bone marrow to produce new blood cells.
If you have aplastic anemia, take care of yourself by:
1.       Resting when you need to.
2.       Avoiding contact sports that may cause injury.
3.      Protecting yourself from germs. You can reduce your risk of infections with frequent hand-washing and by avoiding sick people.

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