What causes aplastic anaemia?

In most cases of aplastic anaemia it is thought to be an acquired and idiopathic (of unknown cause) condition. This means that it is neither present at birth nor inherited but has developed during the patient’s life. There are some rare inherited types of aplastic anaemia where a patient can be born with a faulty gene leading to development of the disease later in life eg Fanconi anaemia but these are different from the acquired aplastic anaemia and their management is different. These inherited forms of aplastic anaemia are excluded during the diagnosis of acquired aplastic anaemia.

The incidence of acquired aplastic anaemia is similar in both sexes and can occur across all age ranges but peaks in the very young (10-15 years) and the elderly (above 60 years).

Our immune system plays a very important role in aplastic anaemia. It is understood that in most cases the damage to the stem cells is caused by an auto-immune reaction. Our immune system normally surveys our body and helps it to fight infections, bugs and germs. In rare cases attacks the bone marrow itself assuming it to be faulty/foreign. The bone marrow function starts to slow down, and in doing so, results in the under-production of all the blood cells.

What are the symptoms?