Blood just doesn’t hang around forever. In fact, the bone marrow is hard at work replacing all forms of blood cells. These include red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Each type of cell has a different life span, but all need constant replacement.

What happens when the bone marrow lags behind or even worse fails? All 3 blood lines will within a few weeks begin to fall and if the marrow fails completely, then urgent treatment will be needed.

This condition is called aplastic anemia. While it is rare, when it does occur, the results can be devastating. At first transfusions of various blood lines can happen, but eventually these don’t work as well and complications happen. If the bone marrow does not come around, then for certain patients a bone marrow transplant may be needed.

Aplastic anemia can be caused by certain medications, viruses and genetic mutations. To be sure there are other causes but these are rare.

The symptoms are slow in onset, as the blood lines already present last for awhile. As these levels fall, fatigue, increased bleeding tendency and more infections will happen. Many sophisticated tests will have to be completed. Of greatest importance is a bone marrow biopsy, in which a small core of bone marrow is withdrawn, using a needle. This is carefully studied to see if for example a cancer has invaded the marrow or if there is a viral infection.

The prognosis really depends on what has caused the marrow to fail. Thankfully this disease is relatively rare.