This page was created to raise awareness for Aplastic Anemia
What Is Aplastic Anemia?

Aplastic anemia (a-PLAS-tik uh-NEE-me-uh) is a blood disorder in which the body's bone
marrow doesn't make enough new blood cells. Bone marrow is a sponge-like tissue inside the
bones. It makes stem cells that develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets

Red blood cells carry oxygen to all parts of your body. They also remove carbon dioxide (a
waste product) from your body's cells and carry it to the lungs to be exhaled. White blood cells
help your body fight infections. Platelets are blood cell fragments that stick together to seal
small cuts or breaks on blood vessel walls and stop bleeding.

It's normal for blood cells to die. The lifespan of red blood cells is about 120 days. White blood
cells live less than 1 day. Platelets live about 6 days. As a result, your bone marrow must
constantly make new blood cells.

If your bone marrow is unable to make enough new blood cells, a number of health problems
can occur. These include arrhythmias (ah-RITH-me-ahs), an enlarged heart, heart failure,
infections, and bleeding. Severe aplastic anemia can even cause death.

Aplastic anemia is a type of anemia. The term "anemia" usually refers to a condition in which
your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells. Anemia also can occur if your
red blood cells don't contain enough hemoglobin (HEE-muh-glow-bin). This iron-rich protein
helps carry oxygen to your body.

In people who have aplastic anemia, the body doesn't make enough red blood cells, white
blood cells, or platelets. This is because the bone marrow's stem cells are damaged. (Aplastic
anemia also is sometimes called bone marrow failure.)

A number of diseases, conditions, and factors can cause damage to the stem cells. These
causes can be acquired or inherited. "Acquired" means you aren't born with the condition, but
you develop it. "Inherited" means your parents passed the gene for the condition on to you.

In more than half of the people who have aplastic anemia, the cause is unknown.

Aplastic anemia is a rare, but serious disorder. In the United States, about 500-1,000 people
develop this type of anemia each year. The disorder is two to three times more common in
Asian countries.

Aplastic anemia can develop suddenly or slowly. It tends to get worse over time, unless its
cause is found and treated. Treatments for aplastic anemia include blood transfusions, blood
and marrow stem cell transplants, and medicines.

With prompt and proper care, many people who have aplastic anemia can be successfully
treated. Blood and marrow stem cell transplants may offer a cure for some people who have
aplastic anemia.

February 2009
Aplastic Anemia
Text taken from: National Heart and Blood Institute
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