anemia signs and symptoms

Aplastic Anemia Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatment


Aplastic Anemia

Is Aplastic anemia a cancer sign?

Can Aplastic anemia kill you?

Continue your reading to find out more about Aplastic anemia signs and symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment along with FAQs.

What is Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic anemia is a condition of having low levels of blood cells or occurs when our body stops producing enough new blood cells that include red blood cell which carries oxygen in our body, white blood cells which fight against infections and platelets that are helped in the blood clot.

anemia signs and symptoms

This is due to the damage of the bone marrow’s stem cells. Hence, Aplastic anemia is also called bone marrow failure. Bone marrow is a semi-solid tissue which may be found within the red, spongy or cancellous portions inside some of the bones in the body. People with Aplastic anemia feel fatigued and are at a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding.

Aplastic anemia is a rare and serious condition that can develop in both Males and females and is more likely to happen to people in their late teens and early 20s and the elderly. Aplastic anemia may occur suddenly and eventually get worse over a long period of time.

Types of Aplastic Anemia

There are two types of aplastic anemia:

Acquired aplastic anemia: This type of aplastic anemia is more common in adults. Many researchers believe that something triggers problems in the immune system. The possibilities include:

  • Viruses like HIV or Epstein-Barr
  • Certain medications
  • Toxic chemicals
  • Radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer

Inherited aplastic anemia: Type of aplastic anemia is mainly caused due to gene defects. It most commonly takes place in children and young adults. People with this type have a higher chance of developing leukemia and other cancers. So it’s important to consult a specialist regularly.

Warning Signs of Aplastic anemia

The following are the common warnings signs of Aplastic Anemia which you experience.

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • A fast or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive problems
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headache

What are the Symptoms of Aplastic Anaemia?

Aplastic Anaemia Symptoms

The symptoms of aplastic anemia depend on what type of blood cells you are lacking, but there is a chance you may be low on all three. While suffering from aplastic anemia, the patient may feel tired due to more blood loss and become more prone to contract infections and develop uncontrolled bleeding. The following are some common symptoms for each:

When Red Blood Cells count is low, the patient may experience:

  • Pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid pulse
  • Heart murmur
  • Bruising and tiny areas of bleeding in the skin
  • jaundice
  • Abnormal bleeding from the vagina or gastrointestinal tract, or blood in the urine
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain

Low white blood cell count:

  • Frequent or prolonged Infections
  • Fever

Low platelet count:

  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Nosebleeds
  • bleeding in the gums
  • rash with small pinpoints

If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, doctors will check to determine which type of Aplastic anemia you have. Your doctor may perform a test called a complete blood count. Doctors may also take a biopsy of your bone marrow to test you for this disorder.

Classification of AA

Classification of Aplastic Anemia is done on the basis of fallen numbers of blood cells that can be found out by a blood count.

Your doctor may diagnose the Aplastic Anemia when the following two conditions satisfy.

  • Hemoglobin less than 100g/L
  • Platelet count less than 50 x 109/L
  • Neutrophil count is less than 1.5 x 109/L

Non-severe Aplastic Anaemia

This meets criteria for Aplastic anemia but does not meet the criteria for severe or very severe Aplastic anemia.

Severe aplastic anaemia

  • A low platelet count (less than 20 x 109/L)
  • A reticulocyte count less than 20 or 60 x 109/L
  • A neutrophil count less than 0.5 x 109/L

Very severe aplastic anaemia

  • A low platelet count (less than 20 x 109/L)
  • A reticulocyte count less than 20 or 60 x 109/L
  • A neutrophil count less than 0.2 x 109/L

Hypocellular bone marrow is the bone marrow cells <25%, or 25-50% with less than 30% of stem cells in your bone marrow.

What Causes Aplastic Anaemia?

Though the cause of a chronic disease like aplastic anemia is completely unknown, some factors that can injure bone marrow temporarily or permanently are:

  • High-dose radiation and chemotherapy treatments: Although these cancer-fighting therapies are used to kill cancer cells, they can also damage healthy cells including stem cells in bone marrow. Aplastic anemia can be one of the side effects of these treatments.
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals: Toxic chemicals such as some used in pesticides and insecticides or exposure to an ingredient in gasoline called benzene.
  • Use of certain drugs: Some medications those used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and several antibiotics can cause aplastic anemia.
  • Autoimmune diseases: An autoimmune disorder is caused your immune system begins attacking healthy stem cells in your bone marrow.
  • Certain viral infections: Viral infections play an important role in the development of aplastic anemia due to the damage to affect bone marrow in some people. Viruses that are linked to developing aplastic anemia include hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and HIV. including viral hepatitis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and infectious mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr viral infection)
  • Pregnancy: Aplastic anemia that occurs in pregnancy may be because of an autoimmune problem.

Risk Factors for Aplastic Anaemia

Aplastic anemia is a rare disorder but serious. Factors that may increase your risk include:

  • Treatment with high-dose radiation or chemotherapy for cancer
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
  • Use of inhalants such as paint thinner, gasoline, nail polish remover, and glues.
  • The use of some prescription drugs used to treat bacterial infections and rheumatoid arthritis
  • Certain blood diseases, autoimmune disorders, and serious infections
  • Rarely Pregnancy
  • Heavy metals
  • Hereditary
  • Genetic disorders
  • Enzyme defects
  • Some people with aplastic anemia also have a rare disorder known as paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria which causes red blood cells to break down very soon.
  • Fanconi’s anemia is a rare and inherited disease that leads to aplastic anemia.

Diagnosis for aplastic anemia

To diagnose aplastic anemia, your doctor may recommend:

  • Blood tests: This test helps the doctor to examine the count of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelet levels.
  • Bone marrow biopsy: A bone marrow biopsy is a procedure that is used to verify the presence of aplastic anemia and its severity. In this procedure, the doctor removes a small sample of bone marrow using a needle from your hipbone which is the large bone in our body. This bone marrow sample is tested under a microscope to detect other blood-related diseases. Person with aplastic anemia contains fewer blood cells than normal in bone marrow.

Treatment for aplastic anemia

Treatments for aplastic anemia may include:

  1. Blood transfusions: Blood transfusions are the most common treatment for aplastic anemia that usually involves control bleeding and relieving anemia symptoms. Blood transfusion is not a cure for aplastic anemia but it gives relief from signs and symptoms by providing blood cells to the bone marrow that is not producing. A transfusion may include:
  2. Red blood cells: Transfusions of red blood cells can raise red blood cell counts in the body and helps relieve anemia and fatigue.
  3. Platelets: Transfusions of platelets help in clotting of blood or prevent excessive bleeding. Although there is no limit to the number of blood cell transfusions you can have, sometimes some complications can arise with multiple transfusions. Mostly, pregnant women with aplastic anemia are treated with blood transfusions.
  4. Stem cell transplant: If it is severe aplastic anemia, in which the blood cell counts are extremely low and is life-threatening, it requires immediate hospitalization for treatment that involve bone marrow transplantation (blood transfusions or a stem cell transplant). This procedure helps to rebuild the bone marrow with stem cells from a donor. A stem cell transplant is generally preferred for young people and has a matching donor (mostly a sibling).
  5. Immunosuppressants: Immune-suppressing drugs can be prescribed to those people who can’t go through a bone marrow transplant or for those whose aplastic anemia is due to an autoimmune disorder. This is a very effective way of treating aplastic anemia.
  6. Bone marrow stimulants: Doctors prescribe certain drugs to help stimulate the bone marrow to produce new blood cells.
  7. Antibiotics, antivirals: People with aplastic anemia may have a weak immune system. You may have fewer white blood cells in circulation to fight against the germs. This leaves you at risk of getting infections.

The very first sign of infection is the fever. If you got it, see your doctor immediately otherwise it could get worse and can be life-threatening. Your doctor may give you antibiotics or antiviral medications to help prevent the infections that cause aplastic anemia.

Preparing for your Doctor appointment

Are you facing any signs or symptoms of Aplastic anemia then make sure that you have an appointment with your family doctor or a general practitioner. He will be referring you to a doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders (hematologist) if he suspects any symptoms so that you can begin treatment.

Get ready for your doctor appointment.

What you can do

  • Write down the symptoms you have sensed
  • Include the other symptoms even if they are unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment
  • Write down recent life changes which expose you to chemicals.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements
  • Take notes and prepare a list of questions you may forget to ask

Prepare the questions you want to ask your doctor 

Having a list of questions prepared can help you make the most of your time with your doctor. The following are some of the basic questions you need to ask your doctor:

  • What’s the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What’s my prognosis?
  • What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
  • Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you’re suggesting?
  • How can I best manage my other health conditions together?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take with me?
  • What websites do you recommend?

What to expect from your doctor

The doctor may ask you the following questions.

  • Have you had any infections?
  • Have you had any unexpected bleeding?
  • Have you felt more tired than usual?
  • When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Is there anything new in your life, such as a new job or a new medication?
  • Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
  • Does anything appear to worsen your symptoms?

Dos and Don’ts of Aplastic Anaemia

As there is no prevention for most cases of aplastic anemia, people with this disorder need to take more care. The following are some of the health care tips to follow and live a healthy life.

  • Stay away from several sports to avoid injuries and bleeding.
  • Wash your hands often.
  • Get your annual flu shot.
  • Avoid excessive exercise
  • Stop participating in the activities that may result in a major cut or fall
  • stay away from infections by frequent hand washing and by avoiding sick people
  • Avoid crowds as much as you can.
  • Stay away from insecticides, paint removers and other toxic chemicals

Prevention for Aplastic Anaemia

There is usually no prevention for most cases of aplastic anemia. To lower your risk of the disease, you should avoid exposure to herbicides, insecticides, organic solvents, radiation, paint removers, and drugs that cause the disorders such as such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, immunosuppressive and anticancer drugs, and other toxic chemicals.

Self Care for Aplastic Anaemia

  • Nutrition: Proper intake of nutritious food can help you stay healthy. When patients eliminate unhealthy food and drink and follow a diet recommended by the doctor, they get the ability to produce new blood cells by their bone marrow.
  • Exercise: Regularly exercises will help you get the advantage of a more efficient metabolism which effectively improves both body and mind. If you have this disease, it needs more strength to handle it. So, always consult with your doctor first before getting on any exercise routine.
  • Fatigue: People with bone marrow failure may have ongoing fatigue which is a major issue in their lives. There are many factors contributes to this condition and it should be ignored but should be recognized and reported to the doctors.
  • Emotional Health: It is very hard for people to know that they have a serious disease. Once they know that, they have to deal with a range of powerful emotions. But after the diagnosis, patients can learn how to adjust to their condition and build their own support system and connect with their peers.

Simple Home Remedies to control Aplastic Anemia

There following are the various dietary guidelines that can be followed to control Aplastic anemia.

  • Apples should be eaten regularly; preferably after every meal as they have high iron content.
  • Beetroot is also a very good source of iron as well as various other minerals that are protective in function to the body.
  • Figs must be eaten regularly, at the rate of three to four per day.
  • Organ meats like kidney and liver must be included in the diet.
  • Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, etc. must be eaten at regular intervals and not all at once.
  • Cold water bath is known to have beneficial effects in anemia and a person with anemia must have at least two cold water baths a day.
  • Flushing out the bodily toxins is necessary and this can be achieved by massages from professionals.
  • The anemic person must breathe deeply for about ten minutes every day
  • Anemic people must not lead a lazy lifestyle even though anemia tends to make people lethargic.
  • They must indulge in light exercises to keep the circulation healthy
  • Yoga has positive effects in anemia as they bring the body into a relaxed state of equilibrium and facilitate the circulation of blood.

Role of Homeopathy in Aplastic anemia

  • Homeopathy medicine stimulates the healthy portion of bone marrow to improve cell production which reduces the number of blood transfusions.
  • Homeopathy medicines improve general vitality and well-being of a patient to help him fight infections.
  • Homeopathy medicines can be useful to control bleeding disorder associated with Aplastic anemia.
  • Homeopathy medicines are beneficial in countering side-effects associated with conventional therapy.
  • Homeopathy medicines have a very effective long-term beneficial effect or preventive effect in terms of countering genetic tendencies and balancing disturbed immunity that are root causes of this serious malady.
  • The chances of relapse significantly diminish with homeopathy treatment.
  • Homeopathic medicines help in maintaining the normal range of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

FAQs of Aplastic anemia

Is Aplastic anemia curable?

The disorder can be cured in some people who are eligible for Blood and marrow stem cell transplants. Identifying and removing a known cause of aplastic anemia such as exposure to a toxin may also cure the condition.

What is the survival rate of aplastic anemia?

Based on some researches, the survival rate is about 80% overall five-year for patients younger than age 20 who have a stem cell/bone marrow transplant.

Is Aplastic anemia is cancer?

Aplastic anaemia is not a malignant disease i.e. cancer but it can be fatal particularly if there are very few blood cells left in circulation and the bone marrow is severely affected.

Do you die from aplastic anemia?

If your bone marrow can’t produce new blood cells then many health problems can occur. The problems include irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias, an enlarged heart, heart failure, infections, and bleeding. Sometimes this aplastic anemia can even cause death.

What are the warning signs of aplastic anemia?

The early symptoms of aplastic anemia may include weakness, Shortness of breath and chest pain, dizziness, headaches, Pale skin, Bruising or bleeding easily, uncontrollable bleeding, nosebleeds and bleeding gums.

Is aplastic anemia serious?

Aplastic anemia is a rare but serious disorder which leads to an inability to produce sufficient blood cells. It can develop suddenly or slowly.

What causes aplastic anemia?

Aplastic anemia causes red blood cells to break down too soon. The aplastic anemia can develop into paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria. An inherited disease, Fanconi’s anemia is a rare disease that leads to aplastic anemia.

Does Aplastic Anemia go away?

Early identification of the cause and appropriate treatment of the aplastic anemia can help the condition to go away. You may not need treatment if your problem is not serious or unless or until your blood count drops below a certain level.

How does aplastic anemia affect the body?

During Aplastic anemia, the body doesn’t make enough red blood cells. The cause of Aplastic anemia is unknown in most cases and it is detected when they are tested for some other reason.

Can you get pregnant with aplastic anemia?

Women who have been treated for aplastic anemia can possibly get pregnant. According to some studies, about 19 percent of women had a relapse of aplastic anemia during pregnancy. In such a case, some women might also need blood transfusions during childbirth.

Is aplastic anemia contagious?

Aplastic anemia is not contagious and cannot be transmitted from person to person. But aplastic anemia is passed down through the genes from parent to child. The patient may have a family history of aplastic anemia or scarring (fibrosis) of the lungs or liver. This type of aplastic anemia is detected when diagnosed with special tests.

What will happen if aplastic anemia is not treated?

If left untreated, aplastic anemia can cause serious health problems. This disorder gets worse over time if its cause is found and left untreated. It is a dangerous condition within a year for more than 80 percent of patients.

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