What is Aplastic Anemia? Common Symptoms and Available Treatments
There are few things more frustrating than not having enough energy or strength to meet the demands of your lifestyle. Even more challenging is when it’s hard to identify why you feel the way you do. Many will try to combat symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, fever, and slowed recovery with improvements to their diet and physical activity.
For many that still struggle with negative physical symptoms, the issue may be tied to a condition known as aplastic anemia. It can happen to anyone regardless of age or pre-existing conditions. Aplastic anemia could even be present for long periods before presenting with symptoms.
If you’ve tried multiple solutions and still struggle with diminished health and a sense of wellbeing, it’s worth checking to see if aplastic anemia may be the hidden roadblock on your path to peak health. Let’s explore what aplastic anemia is, common ways to identify it, and the best options to treat it. We’ll also look at what happens when something of this severity is left untreated.
The importance of blood in our bodies
Blood is a life-sustaining fluid that flows through our blood vessels to provide a host of important things to the entire body, such as:
As important as what blood distributes to the body is its function in eliminating waste from it as well. Without blood, we would be unable to rid the body of things like waste and carbon dioxide.
For this reason, new blood cell production is an essential component of our body’s ability to function optimally. Up to 95% of new blood cells are produced in the bone marrow, the soft spongy portion at the center of our bones. Starting as stem cells (a yet-to-be-programmed cell, think of it as a blank canvas), they develop and mature into different variations of blood cells such as red and white blood cells and platelets.
Understanding aplastic anemia
Blood cells must be replaced regularly with new ones so the body can continue carrying out essential life-sustaining functions. Those with aplastic anemia have lost their ability to produce new blood cells. Their bone marrow contains no new blood cells. The most common cause of this is when the immune system accidentally attacks the stem cells in your bone marrow.
Other causes of aplastic anemia may include:
- Radiation and cancer treatments can severely affect cell production within the bone marrow, specifically when treating broad portions of the body.
- Drug use may cause your body to attack healthy red blood cells, whether prescribed or recreational.
- Autoimmune disorders are immune responses that fail to discern between healthy cells and foreign invaders.
- Viral infections such as hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, cytomegalovirus, parvovirus B19, and HIV have been linked to aplastic anemia.
- Exposure to toxic materials can severely damage red blood cells to the point where it fully depletes them.
It’s important to note that aplastic anemia has multiple causes and can affect people at any age or stage of life. Aplastic anemia can be a short-lived condition lasting only a few weeks to months or could develop into a lifelong chronic condition.
Symptoms of aplastic anemia
The key to reducing and reversing the effects of this disorder is detecting it and developing a systematic strategy for treatment. Early detection can go a long way toward preventing this form of anemia from becoming a lifelong battle.
Those that suffer from aplastic anemia may not present with symptoms, but if they do, they may include:
- Easy bruising
- Frequent and long-lasting infections
- Pale skin complexion
- Skin rash
- Bleeding nose or gums
- Irregular heart rate
While demonstrating any one of these symptoms may not be proof of aplastic anemia, it’s important to keep them in mind and seek professional help in case you start to experience many of the symptoms on this list. This is especially true for those that have exhausted other traditional means to improve their health with underwhelming results.
The dangers of leaving aplastic anemia untreated
One of the pitfalls many patients experience is trying to put off diagnosis and treatment as long as possible. This is due to many still being able to carry out daily tasks, albeit in a diminished state sometimes long after they develop anemia. Left untreated, aplastic anemia can raise your risk of complications, including bleeding, leukemia, and other dangerous blood conditions. It can lead to serious conditions like an irregular heartbeat or heart failure.
The best ways to test for aplastic anemia
The most accurate way to detect any form of anemia is by using a blood test. An anemia blood panel is a group of tests that check for various anemic blood disorders. Beyond their accuracy, these tests can identify the underlying causes of your anemia. There are several options for getting your anemia blood panel done.
One of the most common ways to get tested is to schedule an appointment with your doctor or local medical clinic. After completing your intake paperwork, a nurse will draw your blood samples and send them to the lab for testing. When your results are returned, the medical team will either relay the results to you or schedule a follow-up appointment for you to go over the information with your doctor.
The difficulty of this form of testing is that it is incredibly inconvenient for those with busy schedules and lifestyles. It’s common for people to put off this important testing because of the hurdle of getting to a medical office. The result can be catastrophic if someone does have a severe form of aplastic anemia. The tragedy is that some may ignore the symptoms and delay testing until it is too late.
At-home DIY testing kits
Thanks to advances in medical technology, it’s now possible to order a home testing kit straight to your door. An at-home anemia testing kit can be a great way for people to get tested at a time that is most convenient for them. The fact that it’s done at home rather than at a clinic significantly raises the comfort level.
At-home testing kits contain everything you need to draw your blood samples. Following the instructions provided, you will be able to extract and then ship your samples in a pre-addressed package to the lab. After they are processed, the medical provider will deliver the results to you. Some services will offer a tele-consult to go over any questions you may have regarding the results.
Although it is more convenient, results from a DIY at-home test can be mixed. Most patients are not medical professionals and have little experience in drawing their blood samples. Others may be squeamish at the idea of having to do it themselves. No amount of written instructions can replace the experience and precision of a trained, certified medical professional.
User error can increase the odds of inaccurate results and lead to the added expense of having to order another test to try again. That’s why many are skipping the inconvenience of in-clinic testing and the mixed results of at-home anemia panels for a personalized, in-home blood panel administered by a licensed medical professional.
Professional, in-home anemia blood panels
Taking the best of both in-clinic and at-home testing, this option is the most convenient, accurate, and effective way to test for aplastic anemia. After scheduling an appointment online, a medical professional can be at your door within a few hours. Equipped with the same quality tools, you would find in a clinic, your nurse will draw your samples and deliver them to the lab.
Professional, in-home concierge testing provides several advantages over other options. Beyond taking place in your home, the turnaround time on your results is much faster than a DIY kit. Using a service like ours also ensures that your tests have top priority. When you aren’t feeling the best, speed is essential. After your results come in, our team is available to explore your results, or you can schedule an in-home or virtual doctor’s consultation to craft a plan to treat the underlying causes of our anemia.
Feeling like you are operating in a diminished state can be discouraging and overwhelming. The good news is that if what you are experiencing is related to aplastic anemia, there are treatment options available to you, such as blood infusions, stem cell therapy, and bone marrow transplants. However, the first step is to get tested so you can have clarity. Thanks to professional, in-home testing, it’s now easier and more accessible than ever to start moving towards optimal health.
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