Aplastic anemia can be treated with medications, blood transfusions, and even bone marrow stem cell transplants.

Approximately 2 in every 1 million people in the United States are diagnosed with aplastic anemia each year. This form of anemia occurs when your bone marrow does not create the amount of red blood cells the body needs.

Aplastic anemia cannot be prevented. But there are treatment options that can help reduce symptoms and improve the red blood cell count. A bone marrow stem cell transplant may even be able to offer a cure for some individuals.

This article provides more information about the most common treatments for aplastic anemia, which can help reduce symptoms and improve the red blood cell count. We also examine more complicated treatment options like bone marrow stem cell transplantation.

Aplastic anemia is a rare blood condition where an individual’s bone marrow does not produce a sufficient number of red blood cells.

Researchers believe that most aplastic anemia diagnoses are related to the immune system mistakenly attacking the bone marrow. There is still much to learn about why this occurs. Environmental factors like exposure to pesticides and benzene may be a cause of this immune system response.

Some medications and non-viral hepatitis are also believed to be triggers. Rarely, aplastic anemia may be inherited.

Typically, the first step to treating aplastic anemia is addressing any underlying conditions that may be causing the condition. This could mean:

  • reducing exposure to certain chemicals
  • stopping certain medications
  • treating a viral infection

After addressing any underlying causes, a doctor may suggest a blood transfusion to raise your red blood cell count and platelet levels. They may also suggest medications or a bone marrow stem cell transplant to address bone marrow not functioning as it should.

Here is a more in-depth look at each of those treatment options.

Blood transfusion

Blood transfusions can temporarily reduce symptoms of anemia or fatigue by raising the number of red blood cells, platelets, or both in your body.

While repeat blood transfusions are fairly common, there are some risks associated.

For example, extra iron can build up from the transfused red blood cells and damage organs. The body can also build up antibodies over time that destroy donor red blood cells.


Antibiotics and other medications may be necessary to treat underlying conditions triggering aplastic anemia.

Additionally, immunosuppressive therapy may be recommended. By using certain medications to suppress the immune system with certain medications, your doctor may prescribe certain medications to suppress your immune system. This may stop your body from destroying stem cells in the bone marrow.

You’ll want to keep in mind that if you decide to take medications that affect your immune system, you may need to take extra steps to protect against infection.

Bone marrow stem cell transplants

This type of transplant can help treat aplastic anemia because bone marrow contains hematopoietic stem cells. These types of stem cells can produce more stem cells and also red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

A hematopoietic stem cell transplant from a matched sibling is preferred to treat severe aplastic anemia in children and young adults. This is currently the only true cure for the condition.

If this type of transplant is not what you prefer or is not possible due to a match not being available or comorbidities, doctors will likely suggest immunosuppressive therapy.

Length of treatment varies depending on the cause and severity of the aplastic anemia as well as the treatment chosen and how responsive one’s body is to that chosen treatment.

Doctors consider many different factors when determining the best treatment plan.

Some of those factors include general health, severity, and age.

In this 2019 study, people in France at least 68 years old were found able to tolerate all the aplastic anemia treatments. But the researchers did admit that their research had some limitations like a limited sample size.

To that end, a larger Swedish study in 2017 found survival rates decreased with age — with 90% of people younger than 39 years old surviving 5 years, and a 38.1% survival rate for those ages 60 and older. This large decrease in survival rate shows that older populations may not tolerate severe disease and its treatment therapies.

More research into the role age plays in aplastic anemia treatment is needed to make more clear conclusions.

People with aplastic anemia may experience complications from the condition, and there may be risks from various treatments.

Having this condition can increase the risk of bleeding, leukemia, and other serious blood conditions. Left untreated, aplastic anemia can lead to irregular heartbeat and heart failure along with other serious medical conditions.

Receiving treatment is important, but that can also increase your risk of infection and carry a variety of surgical and drug-related risks. It’s important to discuss potential risks with your doctor when choosing a treatment plan.

There are a variety of factors that can affect a person’s outlook including:

  • severity of the anemia
  • presence (or lack) of a stem cell donor match
  • having other health conditions
  • diet
  • age

Aplastic anemia occurs when an individual’s bone marrow does not make a sufficient number of red blood cells. While the condition cannot currently be prevented, it can be treated.

Treatment options for aplastic anemia include medications, blood transfusions, and bone marrow or stem cell transplants.

If you show signs of anemia, it’s important to talk with a doctor. They can help identify the exact cause and suggest an appropriate treatment plan.

It’s important to treat aplastic anemia to help prevent serious medical conditions like heart failure.