Facts & Resources

Understanding Aplastic Anemia

In aplastic anemia, the bone marrow stops producing new blood cells at the same rate, resulting in deficits of all blood cell types. White blood cells fight germs and platelets help blood clot. Without these, the body is at risk for infection and uncontrolled bleeding.

Aplastic anemia is a very rare disorder in which the immune system mistakenly destroys bone marrow. Fewer than 1,000 people in the United States are diagnosed each year. Its cause is unknown, but in some cases there is a connection with exposure to chemicals such as benzene and radiation. It may also be inherited or brought on by a viral infection. Secondary aplastic anemia can develop when bone marrow is damaged by cancer, chemotherapy, certain medications, or pregnancy.

Symptoms of Aplastic Anemia

In aplastic anemia, the quantity of each blood cell type is much lower than normal. Fewer white blood cells will bring on unexplained infections. Fewer platelets bring about unexpected bleeding and fewer red blood cells cause fatigue. Other symptoms include:

  • Easy, unexplained bruising
  • Fever
  • Nosebleeds and bleeding gums 
  • Pale skin 
  • Prolonged bleeding from cuts 
  • Rapid heart rate 
  • Shortness of breath with exertion 
  • Skin rash 
  • Weakness

Types of Treatment for Aplastic Anemia

Treatment looks different for different people depending on your diagnosis. We tailor your treatment plan to you. Learn more about the treatment types offered at Fred Hutch. 

Diagnosing Aplastic Anemia

Aplastic anemia is diagnosed with blood tests to count the types of blood cells circulating in the blood. When two or three of the cell counts is extremely low, that is a strong indication of aplastic anemia. A definitive diagnosis is made with a bone marrow biopsy. In this procedure, a physician uses a needle to remove a small sample of bone marrow from a large bone, such as the hipbone. The bone marrow sample is examined under a microscope to rule out other blood-related diseases. An aplastic anemia diagnosis is made if very few cells are present in the bone marrow, People with aplastic anemia are treated by a hematologist, one who specializes in blood disorders.

Fred Hutch has researched and treated aplastic anemia for decades.


There are many resources online for learning about your disease. We’ve compiled a list of trusted sources to help you get started.

If you or your caregiver are seeking additional information or resources, our Patient and Family Resource Center is available to help connect you with what you need.

Learning About Aplastic Anemia

Below is a list of online resources you may find helpful for learning about aplastic anemia and the various treatments and support networks available.

AA-MDS International Foundation

Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation

The Aplastic Anemia & MDS International Foundation (AA&MDSIF) is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to support patients, families, and caregivers coping with Aplastic Anemia (AA), Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS), Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuria (PNH), and related bone marrow failure diseases. 

Be The Match

National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)

The National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP) helps people who need a life-saving marrow or blood cell transplant by connecting patients, physicians, donors, and researchers to the resources they need.