Aplastic anemia is a disease that occurs when the body does not produce enough new blood cells. Aplastic anemia leaves the feeling of fatigue with a higher risk of infections and uncontrolled bleeding.

It is a rare and serious condition, which can develop at any age. Aplastic anemia may occur suddenly, or it can occur slowly and get worse over a period of time.


Aplastic anemia symptoms may include:

  • Rapid or irregular heart rate,
  • Fatigue,
  • Shortness of breath with exertion,
  • Pale skin,
  • Frequent or prolonged infections,
  • Unexplained or easy bruising,
  • Nosebleeds and bleeding gums,
  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts,
  • Skin rash,
  • Headache,
  • Dizziness.

Aplastic anemia may be brief, or it may become chronic and can be very severe and even fatal.


Aplastic anemia develops when damage occurs to the bone marrow, slowing or shutting down the production of new blood cells. Bone marrow is a red, spongy material inside the bones that produces stem cells, which give rise to other cells. Stem cells in the bone marrow produce blood cells: red cells, white cells and platelets. In aplastic anemia, the bone marrow is described as aplastic or hypoplastic, empty (aplastic) or contains very few blood cells (hypoplastic).

The following factors can temporarily or permanently injure bone marrow and affect blood cell production:

  • Radiation and chemotherapy treatments,
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals,
  • Use of certain drugs,
  • Autoimmune disorders,
  • A viral infection,
  • Pregnancy,
  • Unknown factors (idiopathic aplastic anemia).

Risk factors

Factors that may increase the risk include:

  • Exposure to toxic chemicals,
  • Treatment with high-dose radiation or chemotherapy for cancer,
  • The use of some prescription drugs — such as chloramphenicol, which is used to treat bacterial infections, and gold compounds used to treat rheumatoid arthritis,
  • Certain blood diseases, autoimmune disorders and serious infections,
  • Pregnancy (rarely).


The low platelet count may cause bruising and bleeding to occur easily. People with aplastic anemia may be more likely to get bacterial infections because of the low number of WBCs, which fight infection. Cases of infection and hemorrhaging are emergencies and must be treated quickly.


There's generally no prevention for most cases of aplastic anemia. However, avoiding exposure to insecticides, herbicides, organic solvents, paint removers and other toxic chemicals may lower the risk of the disease.