Doctors usually have two goals when treating aplastic anemia. The first is to reduce the person’s symptoms, and the second is to stimulate the bone marrow to create new blood cells.
People with aplastic anemia can receive blood and platelet transfusions to correct low blood counts.
A doctor may also prescribe antibiotics as a person needs white blood cells to fight infections. Ideally, these drugs will prevent infections until a person can build more new white blood cells.
Doctors usually recommend a bone marrow transplant to stimulate new cell growth in the long term.
For this, a doctor may first prescribe chemotherapy medications to kill off abnormal bone marrow cells that are affecting a person’s overall bone marrow function.
Next, a doctor performs a bone marrow transplant by injecting the bone marrow into a patient’s body.
Ideally, the individual will receive bone marrow from a close family member. However, even a sibling donor is only a match in 20–30% of cases.
People can also receive bone marrow from someone who is not related to them if doctors can find a compatible donor.
Some people cannot tolerate bone marrow transplants, especially older adults, and those having difficulty recovering from chemotherapy. Others may not be able to find a donor that matches their bone marrow. In these instances, a doctor can prescribe immunosuppressive therapy.
Immunosuppressive medicines suppress the immune system, which ideally stops it from attacking healthy bone marrow cells. Examples of these medications include antithymocyte globulin (ATG) and cyclosporine.
According to NORD, an estimated one-third of people with aplastic anemia do not respond to immunosuppressive drugs.
If this is the case, doctors may consider other treatments, such as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and a medication called eltrombopag (Promacta).
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