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Inadequate blood-cell formation by bone marrow. Pancytopenia is the lack of all blood-cell types (erythrocytes, leukocytes, and platelets), but any combination may be missing. Drug, chemical, or radiation exposure most often causes the disease, but about half of all cases have no known cause. It may occur at any age. Acute disease may be quickly severe, even fatal; chronic disease has symptoms including weakness, shortness of breath, headache, fever, and pounding heart. There is usually a waxy pallor. Hemorrhages occur in mucous membranes, skin, and other organs. Lack of white blood cells lowers resistance to infection and becomes the major cause of death. Very low platelet count may lead to severe bleeding. The treatment of choice is bone-marrow transplantation. Otherwise treatment involves avoiding any known toxic agent and giving fluids, glucose, and proteins (often intravenously) as well as blood components and antibiotics.
Variants of APLASTIC ANEMIA
aplastic anemia or anemia of bone-marrow failure
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on aplastic anemia, visit Britannica.com.