Heart and Blood Conditions

Aplastic Anemia Symptoms and Diagnosis

Symptoms of Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia can cause low levels of white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets or all three. In most children with this disease, the levels of all three types of cells are low.

A child's symptoms depend on which cells are low and how low they are.

  • White blood cells - Low levels of white blood cells increase the risk of infections. Children with a low white blood count may get more infections than healthy children do. Also, they may not get over infections as easily. Fever is one likely sign of infection.
  • Red blood cells - Low levels of red blood cells lead to our cells not getting enough oxygen. This is called anemia. Common symptoms of anemia include feeling tired or irritable and being short of breath. Your child may also get dizzy or lightheaded, or be paler than usual.
  • Platelets - Low levels of platelets lead to easy bruising and bleeding. A child with low platelets may bruise after a minor bump that normally wouldn't cause harm, or may bleed longer than normal after getting a minor cut.

Some people with aplastic anemia don't notice any symptoms. But results from a routine blood test done for another reason may show there's a problem.

Aplastic Anemia Diagnosis

Doctors diagnose aplastic anemia by taking a blood sample to check the levels of each type of blood cell. This test is called a complete blood count, or CBC.

Then they do a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. Here at Seattle Children's, all children receive medicines to make them sleepy and feel less pain for the procedure. There are two main parts to this procedure:

  1. Using a syringe to remove a sample of liquid bone marrow (aspiration) and very small piece of bone (biopsy)
  2. Checking these samples under a microscope to look for anything that's not normal