The treatments used to control aplastic anemia depend on the severity of the condition, the general health of the patient, and the age at which the condition was diagnosed. Cases of aplastic anemia can range from mild to severe and can easily become life threatening if not treated promptly or properly. Although the condition used to be considered almost always fatal within a six month period of time, current treatments have enabled individuals diagnosed with aplastic anemia to manage the condition for many years and has even placed the condition into permanent remission for some patients. The condition is considered rare and the some of the treatment methods found to affect aplastic anemia are very hard on the body. Once a positive diagnosis of aplastic anemia has been determined, the attending physician will explain the findings and discuss available treatment options with the affected individual and their families.
Aplastic anemia affects all three types of blood cells in the body. When the condition affects the red blood cells, anemia typically develops. The common treatment for chronic anemia, such as that caused by aplastic anemia, is a blood transfusion. Individuals with aplastic anemia will require regular blood transfusions to combat the effects of anemia on the body. Blood transfusions may also be used to introduce more platelets to the blood, allowing the blood to clot naturally and reducing the risk of uncontrollable bleeding which could lead to death. Platelets alone can be introduced to the body via transfusion after they have been extracted from a donor using a process called hemapharesis, which extracts the platelets from the blood and returns the rest of the blood to the donor. Over time, the body may create antibodies to attack blood cells introduced to the body through transfusion, reducing the effectiveness of the blood cells.
In cases where aplastic anemia is caused by the immune system of the body attacking the bone marrow, immunosuppressant medications may be prescribed. These medications reduce the effectiveness of the immune system, allowing the bone marrow to heal and replace the blood cells that have died in the meantime. These medications carry a heavy risk, as suppressing the immune system also allows foreign agents, such as bacteria, viruses, and toxins, to affect the body without molestation. If the individual has contact with someone who is ill or catches an illness while taking immunosuppressant medications, the condition can become life-threatening very quickly.
When aplastic anemia affects someone that is young and reasonably healthy, bone marrow transplantation may be a viable option for treatment. Bone marrow transplantation is very rarely used because, in most cases, the risk of using the treatment greatly outweighs the benefits to be gained by the treatment. When bone marrow transplantation is used, the damaged bone marrow is removed and healthy bone marrow from a closely matched donor is used to replace it. There is a risk that the body will reject the transplanted bone marrow, which can lead to serious, potentially fatal complications. Bone marrow cannot be easily removed once transplanted, so a rejection of the tissue by the body is an extremely serious complication. If the individual is deemed healthy enough to attempt bone marrow transplantation and a suitable donor can be found, after a lengthy hospital stay for monitoring, the individual will be able to produce new healthy blood cells from the new bone marrow tissue.
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