- Red blood cells, which carry oxygen to the tissues from the lungs.
- White blood cells, which fight infection.
- Platelets, which seal damaged blood vessels to prevent bleeding.
- The most common cause of inherited anemia is called Fanconi anemia (FA). There are many different genes that can cause FA. They include FANCA, FANCB, FANCC, FANCD1, FANCD2, FANCE, FANCF, FANCG, FANCI, FANCJ, FANCL, FANCM, and FANCN. In order to get FA, a child must inherit 2 abnormal copies of one of these genes -- one from each parent. Someone with only one abnormal copy will not develop the disease and is called a carrier.
- Another inherited cause of aplastic anemia is called dyskeratosis congenita. Two different genes, called TERC and TERT, are needed to make telomerase (an enzyme in eukaryotic cells that can add telomeres to the ends of chromosomes after they divide). An abnormal copy of either one of these genes can cause dyskeratosis congenita. Another gene, DKC1, makes a protein called dyskerin that is needed for telomerase to work. Abnormalities in this gene also cause dyskeratosis congenita.
- Another cause of inherited aplastic anemia is called the Diamond-Blackfan syndrome. In this disease, red blood cells are low, but the number of other blood cells is normal.
- 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 sometimes gets 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 are not able to identify the cause of aplastic anemia. This is called idiopathic aplastic anemia.
- Resting when you need to: Anemia can cause fatigue and shortness of breath with even mild exertion. Take a break and rest when you need to.
- Avoiding contact sports: Because of the risk of bleeding associated with a low platelet count, avoid activities that may result in a cut or fall.
- Protecting yourself from germs: You can reduce your risk of infections with frequent hand-washing and by avoiding sick people. If you develop a fever or other indicators of an infection, see your doctor for treatment.
- Shortness of breath with exertion.
- Rapid or irregular heart rate.
- Pale skin.
- Frequent or prolonged infections.
- Unexplained or easy bruising.
- Nosebleeds and bleeding gums.
- Prolonged bleeding from cuts.
- Skin rash.
- Red blood cells: Transfusions of red blood cells raise red blood cell counts. This helps relieve anemia and fatigue.
- Platelets: Transfusions of platelets help prevent excessive bleeding.
- While there's generally no limit to the number of blood cell transfusions you can have, complications can sometimes arise with multiple transfusions. Transfused red blood cells contain iron that can accumulate in your body and can damage vital organs if an iron overload is not treated. Medications can help your body get rid of excess iron. Another possible complication is that over time, your body may develop antibodies to transfused blood cells, making them less effective at relieving symptoms.
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