What is Aplastic Anemia?
Aplastic anemia is a rare disease which affects only 1-3 people per one million in America each year. Approximately 300-600 new cases of the disease are diagnosed annually and it can happen to people of all ages and race.
The most common causes of aplastic anemia are believed to be drugs, viral infections, and environmental pollutants, though more studies are needed to determine precise causes and increased risk factors.
Aplastic anemia is a medical condition in which bone marrow is unable to produce new cells to replace old blood cells. The condition makes a person experience anemia which is low red blood cell count and aplastic anemia, in which all three types of blood cells (red, white and platelets) are present at lower than normal levels. A person with aplastic anemia will experience a variety of different signs and symptoms, but only a qualified medical professional can make a definitive diagnosis of the disease.
National Aplastic Anemia and MDS Awareness Week
Each year, in the first week of December (1st through 7th) the nation observes the disease of aplastic anemia. The Aplastic Anemia and MDS (Myelodysplastic Syndrome) International Foundation passes out informational pamphlets and literature in order to raise public awareness of the disease and to help those who suffer from the condition. The promotion has been successful at spreading the word about the disease and raising donations for people in need of a bone marrow transplant and other medical procedures.
The acronym “MDS” classifies several different types of bone marrow syndromes, which typically occur in people over the age of 50 years old. Myelodysplastic syndrome is rarely believed to be inherited and is of unknown etiology. There are two classifications of MDS which is divided into five subgroups by the French and American medical system; however, the World Health Organization has developed a system which includes only two main subgroups:
- Chronic and non-progressive anemia: blood cell counts are lower without the presence of leukemic blast cells (cancer)
- Progressive and symptomatic blood cell abnormalities: there are cancer cells in the bone marrow (When a person has a higher than 20% counts of leukemic cells in the blood, the diagnosis of blood cancer is made and the condition is called acute myelogenous leukemia.)
Prognosis for Aplastic Anemia
As with any serious or chronic disease, a person with aplastic anemia will need to do several things in order to improve their long-term prognosis. Becoming educated about the disease will help a person make informed treatment decisions and asking questions will promote a better understanding of the condition.
Being vocal and seeking support can also be beneficial to someone with aplastic anemia, through providing a forum for discussion and to gain more resources. The best thing a person can do is to follow a proper diet, get adequate rest and adhere to the recommendations of the treating physician in order to achieve the best possible outcome.