In aplastic anemia, the quantity of each of the three blood cell types is much lower than normal, which leads to the symptoms that cause a physician to suspect the disease. These symptoms are unexplained infections (due to fewer white blood cells), unexpected bleeding (due to fewer platelets) and fatigue (due to fewer red blood cells).
Other signs and symptoms of aplastic anemia and secondary aplastic anemia may include:
Shortness of breath without exertion
Rapid heart rate
Nosebleeds and bleeding gums
Prolonged bleeding from cuts
Diagnosing Aplastic Anemia
Doctors diagnose aplastic anemia through blood tests and a bone marrow biopsy.
Normally, red blood cell, white blood cell and platelet levels stay within a certain range. To confirm a diagnosis of aplastic anemia, a physician examines a blood sample to determine the number of each type of blood cell circulating in the blood.
Aplastic anemia is strongly suspected when two or three of the cell counts are extremely low. A definitive diagnosis is made if a marrow sample (a biopsy) shows a great reduction in the number of cells in the marrow itself.
To confirm a diagnosis of aplastic anemia, you'll need a bone marrow biopsy. In this procedure, a doctor uses a needle to remove a small sample of bone marrow from a large bone in your body, such as your hipbone.
The bone marrow sample is examined under a microscope to rule out other blood-related diseases. In aplastic anemia, bone marrow contains fewer blood cells than normal. The very few cells that are present, however, are normal. In diseases such as leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome, the bone marrow is full of abnormal blood cells.
The initial diagnosis of aplastic anemia may be made by your doctor or at a local hospital. But for further evaluation and treatment, you'll likely be referred to a doctor who specializes in blood diseases (hematologist) or to a special treatment center for aplastic anemia.
Once you've received a diagnosis of aplastic anemia, you may need additional tests to determine an underlying cause.
Myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) are also rare, potentially serious and non-contagious bone marrow failure diseases. In MDS, the bone marrow stops making healthy blood cells and instead produces poorly functioning and immature blood cells. This means that individuals with MDS can have anemia, infection and bleeding. The bone marrow is usually described as hyperplastic or hypercellular, containing increased number of cells. A small percentage of MDS patients have hypoplastic bone marrow making the disease look similar to aplastic anemia. In some cases MDS will progress over time to become acute leukemia. MDS occurs at an increasing frequency with increasing age but can occur in children also.
Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH) is a rare but potentially serious blood disease that can affect people of any age. Individuals with PNH acquire a defect in the most immature bone marrow cells, the stem cells, that leads to increased hemolysis, or destruction, of red cells in the blood stream, causing the urine to turn red or dark and causing anemia. There is also a tendency for increased thrombosis of veins in the abdomen leading to potentially fatal liver failure. The PNH defect can also occur without significant hemolysis or clotting. PNH may occur as an isolated disorder or PNH may occur in association with aplastic anemia and MDS.
For those concerned with MDS, please see Cell Restore and Blood Well for maximum health support.*
For those concerned with PNH, please see Blood Well and Lymphasol for maximum health support.*
For those concerned with CLL, AML, or CMML, please see Blood Tonic and Cell Restore for maximum health support.*