Aplastic anemia is a life-threatening form of anemia resulting from insufficient production of blood cells. The underlying cause of the disease is in the bone marrow itself. Aplastic anemia can be brought about by exposure to toxic chemicals or radiation or by excessive intake of certain medications. Removal of the toxic agent or getting away from the source of radiation usually will allow the patient to recover without further events. However, a form of aplastic anemia known as idiopathic, which means a disease of unknown cause, may well result in death.
Aplastic anemia affects all cells in the blood including the white blood cells and blood platelets. Loss of white blood cells, the core of the immune system, leaves one susceptible to infection. Loss of blood platelets, which are functional in the clotting process, means bleeding into the skin, digestive system, urine, or nervous system may occur, as may repeated nosebleeds.
Treatment for this form of anemia is to remove the agent causing it, if known, and to provide supportive treatment until the bone marrow recovers. In extreme cases bone marrow transplantation from a compatible individual may be attempted and is sometimes successful.
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