Aplastic anemia occurs when the bone marrow produces too few of all types of blood cells: red cells, white cells, and platelets. A reduced number of red blood cells causes the hemoglobin (a type of protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body) to drop. A reduced number of white blood cells causes the patient to be susceptible to infection. A reduced number of platelets can cause the blood not to clot as easily.
Aplastic anemia in children has multiple causes. Some of these causes are idiopathic, meaning they occur sporadically for no known reason. Other causes are secondary, resulting from a previous illness or disorder.
Nearly 50 to 75 percent of childhood cases of aplastic anemia occur sporadically for no known reason. Acquired causes, however, may include:
Children may also inherit a disorder that predisposes them to developing aplastic anemia. Some disorders that are known to predispose a child to aplastic anemia include the following:
The following are the most common symptoms of aplastic anemia. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
The symptoms of aplastic anemia may resemble other blood disorders or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.
In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination of your child, diagnostic procedures for aplastic anemia may include:
Specific treatment for aplastic anemia will be determined by your child's physician based on:
Aplastic anemia is a serious illness and treatment usually depends on the underlying cause. For certain causes, recovery can be expected after treatment, however, relapses can occur. To treat the low blood counts, initially treatment is usually supportive, meaning that it is necessary to treat the symptoms but not possible to cure the disease. Supportive therapy may include:
Activities which put children with aplastic anemia at risk for infection or bleeding should be avoided. These activities include the following:
If a child has a relapse of aplastic anemia, additional treatment (including a possible bone marrow transplant) may be necessary.