Aplastic anemia is a rare condition affecting the bone marrow and the hematopoietic stem cells. The impact on the bone marrow and the stem cells results in a deficiency of all three types of blood cells causing pancytopenia. Aplastic anemia results in leukopenia (low white blood cells), anemia (low red blood cells), and thrombocytopenia (low platelets). The term “aplastic” refers to the inability of the stem cells in the bone marrow to generate mature blood cells.
Aplastic anemia is more commonly seen among individuals in their teens and young adults. However, it is also common among the elderly. Aplastic anemia can be caused by immune disease, genetics, or exposure to radiation, drugs, or chemicals. However, in about 50 percent of cases, the cause of aplastic anemia is unknown.
In aplastic anemia, the bone marrow’s blood stem cells have been mostly replaced by fat. The first line of treatment for this condition involves immunosuppressive drugs such as anti-thymocyte globulin or anti-lymphocyte globulin. It may also involve medications such as ciclosporin and corticosteroids. Another option is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, which is especially used for patients who are younger than 30 years old if there is a related matched donor.
Symptom #1: Pallor
Pallor refers to paleness of skin that can be caused by emotional shock, use of stimulants, stress, illness, and anemia. In anemia, the pallor of the skin occurs when there is a lower amount of oxyhemoglobin visible on the skin, mucous membrane, or conjunctivae. Oxyhemoglobin is present in red blood cells and is the component that gives it the red pigmentation.
Pallor is most apparent on the face, palms, tongue, mucous membranes, and lips. Pallor should be differentiated from hypopigmentation or a fair complexion. In aplastic anemia, pallor is due to the lack of red blood cells.