Acquired Blood Diseases

Acquired blood diseases, such as immune-mediated thrombocytopenia (ITP), Evans syndrome and autoimmune anemias, are rare autoimmune disorders that can occur in both children and adults. A healthy immune system works by protecting your body from harmful disease or infection, while the immune system of someone with an autoimmune disease mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells. In the case of acquired blood diseases, the immune system destroys its own blood cells.

The pediatric hematology specialists at the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center can perform advanced diagnostic tests to confirm or rule out the possibility of an acquired blood disease. Our team of experts is equipped with the knowledge and tools necessary to provide your child with the most effective treatments and multidisciplinary care available.

Wellness and Prevention

While the exact causes of blood diseases like ITP, Evans syndrome and autoimmune anemias are poorly understood or still unknown, knowing which early warning signs of these illnesses to look for can be an important step in getting your child to a specialist for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

  • The most common symptoms of ITP are internal or external bleeding. Look for purple-colored areas of your child’s skin called purpura that may indicate bruising, as well as red spots, lumps, blood in urine or stool and nosebleeds.
  • Symptoms of Evans syndrome can highly depend on the severity of the illness, although common signs include weakness, fatigue, shortness of breath and pale-colored skin, which are signs of anemia. Additionally, purpura, excess bleeding from small wounds, unexplained bruising and frequent infection can also be early signs of Evans syndrome in children.
  • Signs of autoimmune anemias may be similar to those of other acquired blood diseases and often include pale or yellowed skin (jaundice), nausea, vomiting, headaches and muscle aches, shortness of breath and dark-colored urine.

Diagnosis

Doctors will perform a series of tests to provide an accurate diagnosis of your child’s condition. Because many of the symptoms of acquired blood diseases can be similar to those of other illnesses, your doctor may use a number of different testing methods to rule out other possible causes.

  • A physical examination will check for physical symptoms such as purpura, other bruising, red spots, lumps and signs of infection.
  • Blood tests measure the number and condition of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets in your child’s bloodstream.
  • A bone marrow biopsy may be performed to measure the number of red blood cells your child’s body is producing, and to rule out other blood disorders.
  • Imaging tests such as a CT scan of your child’s chest, abdomen and pelvis can also help to diagnose or rule out other related conditions.

Treatments

Treatment for acquired blood diseases is often aimed at managing symptoms and other possible complications, and your child’s individual treatment plan will highly depend on the specific blood disorder and its severity.

Medications

The first approach to treating ITP, Evans syndrome and autoimmune anemias usually involves medications such as corticosteroids, rituximab and immune globulin, which can help to raise your child’s blood platelet count as well as reduce the amount of autoantibodies in his or her immune system.

Splenectomy

In some cases, a splenectomy, or removal of the spleen, is a necessary step in treatment for blood disease. The spleen is a small organ, about the size of a golf ball in children, that produces antibodies. Normally, these antibodies help to fight infection. In children with autoimmune blood diseases, these antibodies destroy healthy blood cells by mistake.

A splenectomy can help to minimize this damage to healthy cells, but it can also make your child more susceptible to infection. Because of this, your doctor may also prescribe medications or vaccinations to reduce this risk.

Blood Transfusion

During a blood transfusion, the unhealthy cells in your child’s bloodstream will be replaced with healthy cells from a donor. This may be used as an acute treatment to manage short-term symptoms, or your doctor may recommend a blood transfusion prior to your child’s splenectomy or in conjunction with prescribed mediations.

Aftercare

Managing acquired blood diseases requires ongoing care and monitoring, but by working closely with a team of specialists, you and your child can reduce the risk of complication due to ITP, Evans syndrome or autoimmune anemias. Making healthy lifestyle choices to avoid injury and infection, as well as keeping an open line of communication with your doctor are important components of your child’s long-term care.