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Aplastic Anemia

Patient receiving blood

Aplastic anemia is a relatively uncommon but potentially serious condition that occurs when the body does not produce enough new blood cells. More specifically, the condition develops when healthy blood-forming cells (stem cells) in the bone marrow are destroyed, leaving the bone marrow empty (aplastic) or near empty (hypoplastic).

Although aplastic anemia is not a type of cancer, it is sometimes associated with leukemia. It can also result from common cancer treatments, such as high-dose chemotherapy and radiation therapy, which can potentially damage healthy stem cells.

What are the symptoms of aplastic anemia?

Aplastic anemia does not always cause noticeable symptoms, especially in its early stages. However, the resulting lack of blood cells can lead to anemia (due to low red blood cell counts), increased susceptibility to infections (due to low white blood cell counts) and easy bleeding and bruising (due to low platelet counts). Other symptoms can include:

  • Overwhelming fatigue
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Rapid or irregular heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin
  • Nosebleeds and bleeding gums
  • Skin rashes
  • Fever

How is aplastic anemia treated?

Aplastic anemia treatment can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s age. Some options include:

  • Blood transfusions to alleviate symptoms – Transfused red blood cells can help relieve anemia and fatigue, while transfused platelets can help prevent excessive bleeding.
  • Stem cell transplants to replenish the bone marrow – If a matching donor is available, the patient’s abnormal bone marrow will be depleted with chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Then, healthy donor stem cells will be administered intravenously so they can enter the patient’s bloodstream and travel to the bone marrow cavities, where they can begin producing new blood cells.

Additionally, immunosuppressants may be considered for addressing aplastic anemia caused by an autoimmune disorder.

If you have questions about aplastic anemia and other leukemia symptoms, call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online to request an appointment with a specialist in the Malignant Hematology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. We provide every new patient rapid access to a cancer expert within one day, which is faster than any other cancer hospital in the nation.