Bone marrow atrophy can have different causes depending on the patient. Some forms of bone marrow insufficiency can be cured with appropriate therapy steps.
What is bone marrow failure?
If the bone marrow insufficiency is based on congenital anemia, characteristic symptoms such as exhaustion, shortness of breath and cardiovascular problems occur.
In the context of bone marrow insufficiency, those cells in the bone marrow that are responsible for the formation of blood are disturbed or significantly reduced in those affected. See AbbreviationFinder for abbreviations related to Bone Marrow Failure.
Corresponding bone marrow cells can be divided into red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Depending on the form of bone marrow atrophy in the individual, the blood-forming bone marrow cells mentioned are each affected to a different extent by degradation.
Bone marrow atrophy, which occurs as a symptom of a so-called aplastic anemia (a form of anemia), affects, for example, all of the blood-forming cells in the bone marrow – in such patients, these bone marrow cells are completely absent.
Bone marrow insufficiency in the context of such anemia is expressed in the person affected, for example, by possible symptoms such as pale skin, general weakness, shortness of breath and/or tachycardia. If only the blood platelets are affected by bone marrow atrophy, the insufficiency can show up as hematomas (skin bleeding).
In comparatively rare cases, bone marrow insufficiency can be a symptom of congenital forms of anemia. Bone marrow atrophy is usually acquired over the course of life:
For example, exposure to toxins such as benzene can cause the blood-forming bone marrow cells to deplete. Various infections caused by pathogens such as viruses and bacteria are also a possible cause of bone marrow failure.
Another causative factor of bone marrow atrophy is the exposure of the human body to radioactive radiation; Corresponding radiation can be released, for example, as part of radiotherapy or accidents involving radioactivity.
In addition to bone marrow tumors, which can promote bone marrow insufficiency, various medications also carry the risk of promoting bone marrow atrophy – the corresponding medications include, for example, active ingredients that are used as part of chemotherapy.
Symptoms, Ailments & Signs
If the bone marrow insufficiency is based on congenital anemia, characteristic symptoms such as exhaustion, shortness of breath and cardiovascular problems occur. Symptoms such as tachycardia, recurring dizziness and difficulty concentrating are also typical . Those affected generally feel very uncomfortable and are sometimes very limited in their performance.
Externally, the disease manifests itself in pale skin and the edges of the eyes, and weight loss can also occur. Similar signs appear in the non-congenital form. In parallel, ulcers develop on the skin. The bruises often appear with only slight pressure and then remain for a longer period of time.
The symptoms mentioned can indicate various diseases. A clear symptom is anemia, which usually occurs alongside the underlying disease. If the dysfunction of the bone marrow is treated professionally, the symptoms usually subside. It is unlikely that the disease will heal on its own.
Without therapy, the signs of the disease become more severe and cause complications such as fainting or being bedridden. The bleeding on the skin can be reliably treated. In the case of serious illnesses, however, scars or sensory disturbances remain. If internal organs have already been damaged by the insufficiency, long-term effects can still occur years later.
Diagnosis & History
A suspected diagnosis of bone marrow insufficiency can initially be made on the basis of the occurrence of the symptoms described in a person affected. A diagnostician can usually derive further clues from a patient’s medical history.
Finally, in order to confirm the presence of bone marrow insufficiency, microscopic examinations are often carried out using a blood sample from an affected person. Bone marrow smears can also help to confirm the diagnosis of bone marrow atrophy under a microscope.
The course of bone marrow insufficiency in the affected person depends primarily on the cause of the disease; if bone marrow atrophy is caused by underlying diseases such as anemia, for example, self-healing is comparatively rare. The course of bone marrow insufficiency can often be positively favored by early and competent combating of the underlying factors.
In most cases, bone marrow insufficiency causes various symptoms. Those affected suffer from very severe anemia. This can lead to general weakness and pallor, significantly reducing the person’s resilience. It is also not uncommon for palpitations to occur and the associated breathing difficulties or panic attacks.
It is not uncommon for those affected to faint and may injure themselves if they fall. Bone marrow insufficiency has a significant impact on quality of life. In most cases, it is no longer possible to carry out various sports or activities. There is also bleeding on the skin, which occurs sporadically and can thus make everyday life difficult for the patient.
In the treatment of bone marrow insufficiency, there are usually no special complications or symptoms. However, the causative underlying disease cannot always be cured, so that in some cases only the symptoms can be treated. It is not uncommon for psychological treatment to take place when depression or other psychological problems occur. Whether there will be a reduction in life expectancy cannot be generally predicted.
When should you go to the doctor?
If you suspect that you have anemia, you should see a doctor. Pale complexion, increased bruising, cold fingers or feet, and an increased need for sleep are all causes for concern. Fatigue, tiring quickly and a loss of the usual level of performance must be examined and treated. A doctor’s visit is necessary as soon as the symptoms persist for several weeks or increase in intensity. If other symptoms develop, a doctor should also be consulted.
Sensitivity to cold, numbness on the skin or other sensitivity and sensory disorders are indications that should be followed up. The cause is determined in detailed medical examinations so that appropriate treatment can be initiated. If the person affected suffers from tachycardia, irregularities in the heart rhythm, dizziness or an inner weakness, he needs medical care. In severe cases, there is a risk of the circulatory collapse and thus a life-threatening condition. In the event of disturbances of consciousness or a loss of consciousness, there is a need for action as quickly as possible.
A doctor must be consulted or an emergency service must be alerted. Breathing problems, shortness of breath or breathing interruptions indicate health disorders, and there is also an undersupply of the organism. A doctor’s visit is necessary to prevent the occurrence of acute conditions in good time.
Treatment & Therapy
In the treatment of bone marrow insufficiency, measures to combat symptoms must be differentiated from interventions to combat the corresponding causes of the disease. The symptomatic therapy of bone marrow insufficiency aims, for example, to promote blood formation in the affected person.
Depending on the patient and the type of bone marrow insufficiency, blood formation can be stimulated by using so-called anabolic steroids; these are usually artificially manufactured preparations based on testosterone (a male sex hormone). Growth factors that can be produced using genetic engineering processes can also stimulate blood formation in the case of bone marrow atrophy.
If bone marrow insufficiency is caused by severe anemia or if the affected patient shows a strong tendency to bleed, the measures mentioned may not prove to be medically useful; alternatively, a transfer of blood products from donor blood is possible here, for example. Bone marrow transplantation, for example, represents a medical measure to combat the causes; successfully transferring intact bone marrow cells from a matched donor to the patient can cure some forms of bone marrow failure.
Other forms of combating the causes of bone marrow atrophy are aimed at the respective factors that have led or are leading to a reduction in the blood-forming bone marrow cells in the individual.
Outlook & Forecast
Thanks to today’s medical possibilities, the prognosis for bone marrow insufficiency is favorable in most patients. Doctors and medical professionals have various options for therapy available, which lead to a significant alleviation of the symptoms. The final prognosis, however, depends on the cause of the disease. In many cases, long-term therapy is necessary. Despite all efforts, a complete healing of the patient is not always achieved. Nevertheless, various complaints can be treated successfully. Without medical care, the prognosis for those affected is unfavorable. Various complications can occur, which in severe cases lead to premature death.
When making an overall prognosis, secondary diseases must be taken into account. Emotional problems can arise, which are often protracted and affect the well-being and quality of life of the patient. Since the treatment and the individual complaints demand a lot from the patient, the probability of the occurrence of a mental illness in addition to the physical complaints is increased.
If bone marrow transplantation is the only treatment option, the corresponding risks and side effects must also be taken into account. A donor is needed to provide relief from existing symptoms. Otherwise, the prognosis will deteriorate significantly.
A form of bone marrow insufficiency that is already congenital cannot usually be prevented. Regular medical check-ups can help to diagnose diseases at an early stage that can promote bone marrow insufficiency. Appropriate, early treatment of possible underlying diseases can thus reduce the risk of developing or worsening bone marrow insufficiency.
In the case of bone marrow insufficiency, there are no special follow-up measures available to those affected. As a rule, with this disease, a doctor must be contacted very early on, so that there can be no further complications and no further deterioration of the symptoms. However, in some cases the aftercare measures are even completely limited, so that the focus is on early detection of the disease.
In most cases, patients with this disease are dependent on taking various medications. It is always important to ensure the correct dosage with regular intake. If anything is unclear or if there are side effects, a doctor should be contacted immediately. Regular check-ups and examinations by a doctor are very important in order to identify further damage to the internal organs and to treat them early.
Patients with bone marrow insufficiency often depend on the help and support of their own families in their everyday lives. The disease may result in a reduced life expectancy for those affected. The further course depends very much on the time of diagnosis of the disease, so that no general course can be given.
You can do that yourself
Patients with bone marrow insufficiency suffer both physically and psychologically from the symptoms typical of the disease and often wish to take responsibility for improving their everyday quality of life. However, medical therapy is the top priority, since the disease is sometimes associated with serious complications. Therefore, all self-help measures should always be discussed with the specialist.
During bone marrow failure, patients experience weakness, fatigue easily, and a general decline in exercise capacity. As a result, those affected experience difficulties in carrying out their gainful employment and in doing everyday things. However, the patients should allow themselves the necessary rest and not overwork themselves. Sudden unconsciousness due to weakness increases the risk of an accident.
Affected people temporarily adjust their everyday life to the medical treatment and attend the necessary doctor and treatment appointments. Due to the reduced performance, patients refrain from doing sports and strenuous activities. A close person supports the patient in everyday life so that they do not overburden themselves. If those affected develop depressive moods as a result of the symptoms and the associated psychological stress, they immediately seek out a psychotherapist who will support them in dealing with the illness.