What is aplastic anaemia? Aplastic Anaemia is a rare and life-threatening blood disorder caused by the bone marrow not functioning properly. In people with aplastic anaemia, the bone marrow fails to produce enough of all three types of blood cells – red, white and platelets. Red blood cells are essential for carrying oxygen around the body White blood cells help us fight infections, bugs and germs Platelets are responsible for stopping us bleeding and bruising The word ‘aplastic’ means the body’s inability to create new cells, so that tissue cannot grow or regenerate. Who can be affected by aplastic anaemia? Aplastic Anaemia can affect anyone of any age but is most common in the young (10 to 20 years old) and elderly (60 years old +). How many people are diagnosed? It is estimated that between 100 and 150 people will be diagnosed across the UK every year. That's around 2 people for every 1,000,000 of population. This deems aplastic anaemia an ultra rare disease. The exact occurrence of the disease is not known and more research is needed to establish a baseline figure. Our recently launched research strategy has invited research proposals into this area. What causes aplastic anaemia? 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 it attacks the bone marrow itself assuming it to be faulty. 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? The most common symptoms of aplastic anaemia will be anaemia caused by a reduction in red blood cells, with associated feeling of fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches and, occasionally, chest pains. A lack of white blood cells can lead to infections, such as sinus or throat and chest infections. Low platelets cause a tendency to bleed easily, for example, from the nose or gums, may lead to unexplained bruising, blood blisters in the mouth, but also serious bleeding, for example in the brain or in the gut.