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.
Name: Aplastic anaemia
Cell type: Red blood cells
Frequency: Approx. 125 / year in the UK
UK transplants: 91 in 2016 (for all types of anaemia)
Risk: More common in 15-25 year olds and people over 60
Treatment: Blood transfusions and immunosuppression; a stem cell transplant may then be needed
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.
‘As treatment continued, it became increasingly likely that I’d need to have a stem cell transplant. The hospital got in touch with Anthony Nolan but there weren’t any matches for me in the UK. In the end, an American donor was chosen as the best possible match and I had the transplant that saved my life.’
Nadia, who had a stem cell transplant in 2003 to treat her aplastic anaemia. You can read her story here.
Some of our transplant recipients have also been kind enough to share their experience of treatment for aplastic anaemia. You can read their stories here: