Aplastic anemia occurs because of damage to stem cells inside bone marrow, which is the sponge-like tissue within your bones. Many diseases and conditions can damage the stem cells in bone marrow. As a result, the bone marrow makes fewer red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.
The most common cause of bone marrow damage is from your immune system attacking and destroying the stem cells in your bone marrow, which is a kind of autoimmune disorder. The genes you inherit from your parents, some medicines, and certain toxins in the environment may also cause aplastic anemia.
Aplastic anemia can develop suddenly or slowly, and it can be mild or severe. Signs and symptoms of aplastic anemia include fatigue, infections that last a long time, and easy bruising or bleeding. The low levels of blood cells also increase your risk for complications such as bleeding, leukemia, or other serious blood disorders. Without treatment, aplastic anemia can lead to serious medical conditions such as arrhythmia and heart failure. To diagnose aplastic anemia, your doctor will order tests to determine whether you have low numbers of cells in your bone marrow and blood.
Treatments may include medicines to suppress your immune system, blood transfusions, or a blood and bone marrow transplant. A blood and bone marrow transplant may cure the disorder in some people. Removing a known cause of aplastic anemia, such as exposure to a toxin, may also cure the condition. Because people who have aplastic anemia are more likely to develop blood disorders, your doctor will monitor your condition and screen you for blood disorders regularly. If you take medicine to suppress your immune system, you will also need to take steps to prevent infection and the flu, including taking medicine and getting vaccines such as an annual flu shot.
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Learn about the following ways the NHLBI continues to translate current research into improved health for people with aplastic anemia. Research on this topic is part of the NHLBI’s broader commitment to advancing blood disorders and blood safety scientific discovery.
Learn about some of the pioneering research contributions we have made over the years that have improved clinical care.
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Learn about exciting research areas the NHLBI is exploring for aplastic anemia.
We lead or sponsor many studies on aplastic anemia. See whether you or someone you know is eligible to participate in our clinical trials.
To learn more about clinical trials at the NIH Clinical Center or to talk to someone about a study that might fit your needs, call the Office of Patient Recruitment 800-411-1222.
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