Aplastic anemia is a life-threatening bone marrow disease that has been linked to exposure to benzene, an industrial chemical used in dozens of common household products.
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Although there are other conditions in which one of the three types of blood cells are not being produced properly, in aplastic anemia there is not enough of all three types of blood cells. This causes some of the systems of the body to stop working properly and puts the affected individual at greater risk of infection and excessive bleeding. The progression of the disorder determines which type of blood cell is reduced the quickest and the symptoms that appear are directly influenced by the type of blood cell reduced in the blood stream the most. The condition is considered rare and there is no reliable cure for the condition.
Aplastic anemia can develop slowly or arise suddenly. In rare cases, the condition can resolve itself, but in many other cases, the condition becomes chronic, requiring numerous treatments. The development of aplastic anemia has been linked to numerous agents, although researchers are still unsure as to what exactly causes the condition. Exposure to chemotherapy or radiation therapy for another condition has been associated with the development of aplastic anemia. Other agents linked to aplastic anemia development include exposure to high levels of toxic chemicals, such as benzene, which are found in numerous industries and are used as ingredients in pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides. The use of certain medications, such as quinine, or exposure to certain viruses has also been linked to the development of aplastic anemia. It is not understood why some individuals that have been exposed to these agents develop aplastic anemia while others who have also been exposed do not develop the condition.
There are a number of symptoms associated with the development of aplastic anemia and individuals diagnosed with the condition may experience some or all of them. The initial symptoms of the disorder include headache, dizziness, rapid heart rate, and a skin rash. As the condition progresses and the number of healthy blood cells in the circulatory system decreases, more symptoms of the condition begin to appear. As the number of red blood cells in the body decrease, anemia develops, causing pale skin, shortness of breath, fatigue, and muscle weakness. A reduction in the amount of healthy white blood cells in the system causes the immune system to falter, allowing more invasive agents to reproduce in the body and causing frequent infections that last for long periods of time. Low numbers of platelets in the body cause excessive bleeding and an inability to heal minor wounds.
Aplastic anemia is considered a serious disorder and may lead to death if not treated properly. Before modern treatment methods emerged, the condition was nearly always fatal within a short period of time. Common treatment methods used for the condition today include medication, chemotherapy, blood transfusions, and bone marrow transplantation. Aplastic anemia is often confused with a disorder known as myelodysplastic syndrome. The difference is that in myelodysplastic syndrome, the bone marrow produces blood cells that are abnormal and cannot function properly. In aplastic anemia, the bone marrow actually reduces the amount of blood cells produced.
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