ITT Technical Institute
Aplastic anemia is a condition in which your body stops producing enough new blood cells. This illness will leave you very fatigued and more prone to infection and uncontrolled bleeding. This rare and serious condition can develop at any age. Aplastic anemia may occur suddenly or progress slowly over a period of time. This ailment may be brief, but can become a chronic disease and in some cases may be fatal.
Aplastic anemia develops when damage occurs to your bone marrow, slowing or stopping the production of new blood cells. Bone marrow is a red, spongy material inside your bones that produces stem cells, which give rise to other cells. Stem cells in the bone marrow produce blood cells — red cells, white cells and platelets. In aplastic anemia, the bone marrow is described in medical terms as aplastic which means that it's empty or contains very few blood cells (Mayo Clinic 2014).
Factors that can temporarily or permanently injure bone marrow and affect blood cell production include:
Radiation and chemotherapy treatments. While these cancer-fighting therapies kill cancer cells, they can also damage healthy cells, including stem cells in bone marrow. Aplastic anemia can be a temporary side effect of these treatments.
Exposure to toxic chemicals. Exposure to toxic chemicals, such as some used in pesticides and insecticides, may cause aplastic anemia. Exposure to benzene — an ingredient in gasoline — also has been linked to aplastic anemia. This type of anemia may get better on its own if you avoid repeated exposure to the chemicals that caused your initial illness.
Use of certain drugs. Some medications, such as those used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and some antibiotics, can cause aplastic anemia.
Autoimmune disorders. An autoimmune disorder, in which your immune system begins attacking healthy cells, may involve stem cells in your bone marrow.
A viral infection. Viral infections that affect bone marrow may play a role in the development of aplastic anemia in some people. Viruses that have been linked to the development of aplastic anemia include hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19 and HIV.
Pregnancy. Aplastic anemia that occurs in pregnancy may be related to an autoimmune problem — your immune system may attack your bone marrow during pregnancy.
Unknown factors. In many cases, doctors aren't able to identify the cause of aplastic anemia. This is…