Aplastic anemia is a condition in which the bone marrow fails to produce blood cells.
What is going on in the body?
The bone marrow contains special cells known as stem cells. Stem cells are like infant cells. They may develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout the body. White blood cells fight infection. Platelets control bleeding by forming blood clots in certain situations. Blood cells have a limited life, so new ones are made constantly.
Certain conditions can damage stem cells or change their environment. The stem cells stop making blood cells. The bone marrow fills up with fat, instead of developing blood cells. The low level of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in the body is known as aplastic anemia.
What are the causes and risks of the condition?
In 50% of the people with aplastic anemia, the cause is unknown. In other cases, the anemia may be caused by one of the following factors:
chemicals, such as benzene and pesticides
drugs, such as chloramphenicol
inherited or genetic causes, which may be present at birth
viruses such as herpes, hepatitis C, and HIV
Some experts believe that aplastic anemia is an autoimmune disorder, a condition in which the body produces antibodies against its own blood cells.