Aplastic Anemia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
Aplastic anaemia is a rare and serious condition in which the body's bone marrow does not produce enough new blood cells. Without enough new blood cells, the body cannot get enough oxygen to its tissues and is unable to fight infections or stop bleeding. This blog post will discuss the symptoms of aplastic anaemia, along with its causes and options for treatment.
Symptoms of aplastic anaemia
Some of the common aplastic anaemia symptoms are discussed below:
One of the key symptoms of aplastic anaemia is fatigue. Individuals affected by this condition often experience a pronounced lack of energy and tire more easily. This fatigue can be attributed to the reduced number of red blood cells within their circulation. This is responsible for oxygen transport to the body's tissues. As a result, you may find yourself experiencing difficulty in performing daily activities that you used to handle effortlessly.
- Increased susceptibility to infections
Another symptom of aplastic anaemia is increased susceptibility to infections. With a decreased production of white blood cells, the body's immune system becomes compromised. This means the body had a reduced ability to defend against harmful pathogens. As a consequence, individuals with aplastic anaemia are more prone to developing infections. This may manifest as frequent and prolonged episodes of fever, sore throat or respiratory symptoms.
- Development of abnormal bleeding tendencies
Additionally, aplastic anaemia can lead to the development of abnormal bleeding tendencies. The decreased production of platelets, which play a crucial role in blood clotting, can result in easy bruising, prolonged bleeding from minor cuts, or spontaneous bleeding from the nose or gums. This symptom can be particularly difficult and may pose a threat to the affected individual's overall well-being.
- Pale skin and shortness of breath
Physical manifestations associated with aplastic anaemia may also include pale skin and shortness of breath. The decrease in red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body, can lead to the characteristic paleness observed in individuals with this condition. Moreover, the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood can result in shortness of breath, especially during exertion or physical activity.
Causes of aplastic anaemia
A lot of different causes can contribute to aplastic anaemia. Some of the most common aplastic anaemia causes are discussed below:
- Exposure to environmental toxins
Exposure to certain environmental contaminants is one of the main causes of acquired aplastic anaemia. The ability of bone marrow to create blood cells is directly impacted by chemical agents such as benzene, a frequently used industrial solvent.
Furthermore, continuous exposure to high doses of radiation or medical procedures like radiation therapy might raise the chance of developing aplastic anaemia.
- Viral infections
Another significant cause of aplastic anaemia is the presence of infections, particularly viral infections. It has been observed that certain viruses, such as hepatitis and Epstein-Barr viruses, have a detrimental effect on bone marrow function. This leads to inadequate blood cell production.
Additionally, infections such as parvovirus B19, a common childhood virus, have been associated with the development of aplastic anaemia in some people.
- The use of specific medications
In some cases, aplastic anaemia can also be triggered by the use of certain medications. Medicines like chloramphenicol and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) have been linked to the suppression of bone marrow activity, resulting in a decrease in blood cell production.
Other medications, including antiepileptic drugs and chemotherapeutic agents, may also carry a risk of causing aplastic anaemia.
- Existence of autoimmune conditions
Certain autoimmune conditions, where the body's immune system mistakenly attacks its cells, can contribute to the development of aplastic anaemia. Disorders such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and rheumatoid arthritis have been associated with an increased likelihood of developing aplastic anaemia. The immune system's misguided response in these conditions can affect the normal functioning of bone marrow. This in turn impairs red blood cell production.
Treatment options for aplastic anaemia
There are several treatment options available for aplastic anaemia. Some of the most popular aplastic anaemia treatment options are discussed below:
- Supportive care
Providing relief from symptoms and supportive care remains a very important component of managing aplastic anaemia. This involves blood transfusions to correct anaemia, antibiotics to prevent infections and platelet transfusions to manage bleeding tendencies.
- Immunomodulatory therapy
Immunosuppressive therapy, primarily consisting of anti-thymocyte globulin (ATG) and cyclosporine, represents a cornerstone in the management of aplastic anaemia. They work by targeting the immune system and stopping it from attacking the bone marrow.
- Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT)
HSCT, also known as bone marrow transplantation, is considered the curative option for aplastic anaemia. This procedure involves replacing the patient's diseased bone marrow with healthy stem cells obtained from a compatible donor. HSCT is recommended primarily for younger patients with a suitable donor, as it carries significant risks.
- Novel therapies
There are new treatments for autoimmune thrombocytopenia that are showing promise. One is eltrombopag, which is a drug that makes your body make more platelets. Another is high-dose cyclophosphamide, which is a drug that helps your immune system not attack your platelets but requires further investigation and validation.
Supportive care, immunomodulatory therapy, HSCT and newer therapies are the most common treatment options for aplastic anaemia. For the treatment of aplastic anaemia, you need to consult a trustworthy and experienced doctor. Seeking medical attention for aplastic anaemia is highly recommended for fast and effective treatment.
For diagnostic tests for aplastic anaemia, it is recommended that you visit a reliable diagnostic centre like Metropolis Healthcare. Metropolis Healthcare is a leading pathology lab offering a wide range of diagnostic and testing services. Patients and doctors alike trust Metropolis’ accurate and timely results for all their pathology needs. Metropolis Healthcare has a team of experienced and professional laboratory technicians who use the latest in technology and equipment to deliver the highest quality of care.