The signs of aplastic anemia can vary depending on which type of blood cell in the body has been affected the most. Because aplastic anemia affects all three types of blood cells, there are a variety of signs and symptoms that may appear. The condition can develop slowly or quickly and the severity of the condition can range from mild to severe. In the beginning, aplastic anemia does not show any symptoms and the condition can remain asymptomatic for a long period of time. As the condition progresses and the levels of healthy blood cells in the body are reduced, the symptoms and signs of the condition begin to appear.
The initial symptoms of aplastic anemia include lethargy, rapid heart rate, fever, pale skin, skin rash, headache, and dizziness. These symptoms closely resemble the symptoms of numerous mild illnesses and are often overlooked by individuals as a condition that will go away with over the counter medications and rest. Some individuals become alarmed when the symptoms last for a long period of time, prompting a visit to a medical professional who will conduct a physical examination and some blood tests to determine the cause of the long illness. The condition is typically diagnosed after the receipt of an abnormal blood test.
As aplastic anemia progresses and the number of blood cells in the body are reduced, more symptoms of the condition will appear. As the number of white blood cells in the body is reduced, the body becomes unable to fight infection properly. This causes the individual to become ill frequently and for long periods of time, as the body cannot fight the viruses or bacteria that are causing the illness. Complications from common illnesses can be life-threatening for individuals with aplastic anemia and emergency medical treatment may be needed to preserve the health and life of the individual affected.
As the number of red blood cells present in the body decreases, severe anemia can develop, starving the body of much needed oxygen. Healthy red blood cells are needed to carry oxygen to the numerous systems of the body in order for the body to work properly. Low levels of red blood cells means that certain systems of the body will not receive the right amount of oxygen to function properly. Signs of anemia include lethargy, excessive fatigue, muscle weakness, and shortness of breath. Regular blood transfusions may be needed to combat the effects of anemia.
When the number of platelets in the blood is disrupted by aplastic anemia, the body is unable to heal itself properly. Platelets are what causes blood to clot and the edges of a wound to bind together. Without the proper number of platelets in the blood, minor cuts and bruises can become medical emergencies, as the individuals can bleed to death from small, superficial wounds. Individuals with low levels of platelets in the blood may bruise easily, bleed excessively, bleed from the gums or nose with no trauma occurring, and cause the development of petechiae, which are small pools of blood that collect in the pores of the affected individual. The appearance of any of these symptoms warrants a visit to a healthcare practitioner to determine the cause of the symptoms that have appeared.
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