Skip to main content

Aplastic anaemia

If you have aplastic anaemia, your bone marrow doesn’t make enough blood cells, including red blood cells that transport oxygen to the rest of your body.

This leads to anaemia, which can cause fatigue, headaches and concentration problems – alongside more serious issues. 

Most cases of aplastic anaemia are acquired, meaning that it develops after an event such as viral infection or taking certain medications. The main cause of developing aplastic anaemia is after an autoimmune reaction, where your immune system targets your own cells. Aplastic anaemia can also be inherited at birth, through faulty genes passed on by your parents, although that is much rarer.     

You can find out more from the Aplastic Anaemia Trust.

Aplastic anaemia facts

Name: 
Aplastic anaemia

Cell type: 
Red blood cells

Frequency:
120-150 / year in the UK

UK transplants:
99 in 2019 (for all types of anaemia)

Risk: 
More common in 10-20 year olds and people over 60

Treatment:
Blood transfusions and immunosuppression; a stem cell transplant may then be needed

Links:
theaat.org.ukgeneticdisorders.org

Stem cell transplants and aplastic anaemia

If you have severe aplastic anaemia, your doctors may decide that you need a stem cell transplant, especially if other treatments haven’t helped. This will be an allograft transplant – when your new stem cells are donated by someone else.

Children with aplastic anaemia are more likely to need a stem cell transplant. If you’re a parent who’s supporting a child through a transplant, please read our page for parents.

Living with aplastic anaemia

I was a busybody teenager. Always out and about seeing friends. I started getting awful headaches. I was constantly exhausted and achy. I managed to ignore the signs for so long because I was scared of needles, but thankfully my dad forced me to get a blood test

Anie, who had a stem cell transplant in 2013 to treat her aplastic anaemia. You can read her story here.

Many more patient stories are available in our Blogs section.

Information published: 15/02/21
Next review due: 15/02/24    

Related links

Preparing for a stem cell transplant

Having a stem cell transplant

Get support from us

Patient Information Forum – Trusted Information Creator