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Aplastic anemia happens when the bone marrow does not make enough blood cells. When your child has too few blood cells, it raises the risk of anemia (low red blood cells), infections, and bleeding too much.
Bone marrow is the soft, spongy tissue at the center of your bones. Blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow make new blood cells.
A doctor takes a bone marrow sample to learn if your child has aplastic anemia. Finding out if your child has this disease can take several weeks.
People with aplastic anemia have few or no stem cells. Experts believe this is because the body's immune system attacks and kills blood-forming stem cells. When this happens, the body makes fewer blood cells.
Most cases of aplastic anemia do not have a known cause. But it can be passed down from a parent or other relative. Other causes include being around toxic chemicals, taking certain medicines, and having chemotherapy or radiation.
The bone marrow makes different types of blood cells. Your child's symptoms depend on which type of blood cell is affected:
|Type of Blood Cell||Symptoms of Aplastic Anemia|
|Red blood cells||Fatigue, trouble focusing, loss of appetite, weight loss, pale skin, trouble breathing, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, headache|
|White blood cells and neutrophils||More infections than normal|
|Platelets||Bleeding or bruising easily, or flat red spots under the skin called petechiae|
Aplastic anemia is rare. This means that diagnosing it involves ruling out other illnesses such as leukemia.
Your child’s care team might ask for:
The blood tests will look at things like your child’s liver and kidney function. Bone marrow tests will check to see how many cells are present in a bone marrow sample.
Generally, it takes several weeks to diagnose aplastic anemia.
After a diagnosis
Your child's aplastic anemia can be moderate, severe, or very severe.
Your child’s care team will use the diagnosis to create a treatment plan for your child.
The right treatment for your child depends on cause, severity, and other factors.
Today, most people who get treatment recover from aplastic anemia.
Recovery depends on:
Without treatment, aplastic anemia can be life-threatening.
Children with aplastic anemia may need frequent visits to the hospital — up to two or three times per week.
Call the doctor if your child:
Also call your child's doctor before your child:
These things can be risky for someone with aplastic anemia.
Your child might not be able to attend a traditional school. They should avoid:
Your child’s care team can help you if you have questions about which activities your child might need to avoid.
Reviewed: September 2022