Aplastic Anaemia

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Aplastic Anaemia

What Is Aplastic Anaemia?

Aplastic Anaemia, also known as Bone Marrow Failure, is a type of rare, but treatable type of anaemia. In this condition, the bone marrow doesn’t make enough new blood cells – red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Sometimes, the bone marrow stops making just one type, but more often, the body becomes low on all three types of blood cells.

Anyone and everyone is susceptible to Aplastic Anaemia, but it’s more likely to happen to people in their late teens and early 20s, and the elderly. Males and females, both have an equal chance of getting it.

What Are The Different Types Of Aplastic Anaemia?

There are two different types of Aplastic Anaemia:

  • Acquired Aplastic Anaemia
  • Inherited Aplastic Anaemia

Acquired Aplastic Anaemia is more common in adults. Research has shown that the disorder is a result of something triggering problems in the immune system. The probable causes are viruses like HIV or Epstein-Barr; certain medications, toxic chemicals, radiation or chemotherapy etc.

Inherited Aplastic Anaemia is caused by gene defects. It is most common among children and young adults. People with this type have a high chance of developing leukaemia & other cancers.

What Are The Symptoms Of Aplastic Anaemia?

Each type of blood cell has a different role: red blood cells carry oxygen around the body; white blood cells fight infections, and platelets prevent bleeding. The symptoms of Aplastic Anaemia depend on what type blood cells the body is low on:

  • Symptoms of Low Red Blood Cell Count: Tiredness; Shortness of breath; Dizziness; Pale skin; Headaches; Chest pain; Irregular heartbeat
  • Symptoms of Low White Blood Cell Count: Infections; Fever
  • Symptoms of Low Platelet Count: Easy bruising and bleeding; Nose bleeds
How Is Aplastic Anaemia Diagnosed?

To diagnose Aplastic Anaemia, a GP will refer the patient to a Haematologist, who will recommend the following tests:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC) - Normally, red blood cell, white blood cell and platelet levels stay within a certain range, the Haematologist may suspect aplastic anaemia when all three of these blood cell levels are very low.
  • Bone Marrow Biopsy - A bone marrow biopsy is only way to confirm a diagnosis.

Once the diagnosis is confirmed, the Haematologist will recommend additional tests to determine an underlying cause.

How Is Aplastic Anaemia Treated?

If the Haematologist identifies the cause of Aplastic Anaemia and get rid of that trigger, the condition may go away. But, Haematlogists can rarely pinpoint the exact cause.

If the condition isn’t severe, the patient may not need treatment unless or until the blood count drops below a certain level. If it does, the Haematologist may prescribe hormones or drugs to help the bone marrow make blood cells along with antibiotics and anti-fungal medications to fight infection.

Most people with Aplastic Anaemia will need a blood transfusion at some point.

The three main treatment modalities for treatment of aplastic anaemia are

  • Bone marrow transplant from a donor
  • Injection called ATG (Anti thymocyte globulin)
  • Oral medicines like cyclsoporine, androgens, and newer medications such as Eltrombopag.