Acquired Aplastic Anemia

Common Symptoms, Rare Cause


Typical of many disease symptoms, you are pale, cold, and often tired. You might also be experi­encing spontaneous bleeding from the nose or gums. Cardio­pulmonary complica­tions can develop. Bruises following minor injury do not heal promptly and you may be sus­cep­tible to many bacterial and fungal infections.

With these symptoms, the cause may be a rare disorder called acquired aplastic anemia. It is also known as idiopathic aplastic anemia, or immune aplastic anemia.

General anemia is a common symptom of many disorders. A low number of oxy­genat­ed red blood cells manifests with tiredness and pallor. Massive blood loss, nutri­tional imba­lance, or other medical condi­tions can be the cause.

With acquired aplastic anemia, there is almost complete absence of hemato­poietic stem cells that produce mature blood cells. It appears that in place of the bone marrow, there is fat. This results in low levels of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets (pancytopenia). Since all three blood compo­nents are formed in the bone marrow, treat­ment aims to restore bone marrow function via trans­plant and/or immuno­suppres­sion.

Restore Bone Marrow Function

Acquired Aplastic Anemia

Stem cell and bone marrow transplant are prone to rejection. Doctors suspect the body’s natural immune system may be attacking the bone marrow. Thus, immuno­suppres­sive therapy for this autoimmune disorder can restore proper blood count near normal levels.

Immunologists must repeat this tem­po­rary proce­dure as relapses of aplastic anemia occur. An individual who success­fully responds to immuno­suppres­sive therapy is still at risk of eventually developing parox­ysmal noc­turnal hemoglo­binuria, myelodys­plasia, or leukemia.

Acquired aplastic anemia affects 2 out of 1 million people per year in Europe and Israel, 5 out of 1 million in Asia, and there are 500–1000 annual cases in the United States. As a rare disease, detection is possible with a blood test performed during routine physical examinations.

Doctors must distin­guish it from a rare group of other blood disorders with additional testing. Contact the NORD (National Organization for Rare Diseases) for more informa­tion and clinical trials.

There is no need to assume that you have a rare disease because you are tired or manifest a few other symptoms. This informa­tion under­scores the advan­tage of regular cardiology checkups over self-diagnosis.

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Updated: Dec 27, 2022

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