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Aplastic Anemia

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Aplastic anemia can be moderate, severe or very severe. People with severe or very severe aplastic anemia are at risk for life-threatening infections or bleeding. With prompt and proper care, most people who have aplastic anemia can be successfully treated. The only cure for aplastic anemia is a bone marrow transplant.

Aplastic anemia can strike at any age regardless of race or gender. However, it is diagnosed more often in children, young adults and older adults. It also appears more often in Asian-Americans. Each year, between 600 and 900 people in the U.S. learn that they have aplastic anemia.

What is happening to my blood with Aplastic Anemia?

Blood consists of blood cells floating in plasma. Plasma is mostly made of water. It also includes salts, proteins, hormones, minerals, vitamins and other nutrients and chemicals your body needs.

What are the 3 Basic Types of Blood Cells?

  • Red blood cells (RBCs) are also called erythrocytes. They make up almost half of blood. Red blood cells are filled with the protein hemoglobin that picks up oxygen in the lungs and brings it to cells all around the body.
  • White blood cells (WBCs) are also called leukocytes. They fight disease and infection by attacking and killing germs that get into the body. There are several kinds of white blood cells, each of which fights a different kind of germ.
  • Platelets are also called thrombocytes. They are small pieces of cells that help blood clot and stop bleeding.

How are Blood Cells Formed?

The process of making blood cells is called hematopoiesis. Blood cells are made in the bone marrow, a spongy tissue located inside certain bones. Marrow contains blood-forming stem cells that make copies of themselves to create all three types of blood cells. When blood cells are fully mature and functional, they leave the bone marrow and enter the bloodstream. Healthy people have enough stem cells to make all the blood cells they need.

What is Bone Marrow Failure?

Bone marrow failure happens when the marrow doesn't produce enough red cells, white cells or platelets, or the blood cells that are produced are damaged or defective. This means the body can not supply itself with the blood it needs. Aplastic anemia, MDS and PNH are bone marrow failure diseases.

What happens when I have Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic anemia is caused by the destruction of blood-forming stem cells in bone marrow. These stem cells normally develop into three types of blood cells: red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. The symptoms of aplastic anemia vary depending on how severe it is and how low blood counts are. Some typical symptoms include:

  • Feeling tired and out of breath after only a little exercise
  • The tendency to bruise and bleed easily
  • Bleeding that won’t stop
  • Infections and an associated fever

Aplastic Anemia Toolkit for Patients

Our Aplastic Anemia Toolkit will help you learn more about all aspects of Aplastic Anemia and manage your health care. There are printable patient information pages about disease basics, your Aplastic Anemia risk level, treatment options, managing side effects, and preparing for your medical appointments. You can also order a 3-ring binder that includes all of the patient information pages, disease management tools and AAMDSIF booklets and fact sheets related to Aplastic Anemia.

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