Pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) is a rare blood disorder that happens when your bone marrow doesn’t produce the normal number of red blood cells. When you don’t have enough red blood cells, you have anemia. People may have inherited PRCA or develop the disease because they have another condition or as a reaction to medication.
Pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) is a rare blood disorder that happens when your bone marrow doesn’t produce the normal number of red blood cells. When your red blood cell supply drops below normal levels, you have anemia. With anemia, you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells carrying oxygen to your tissues and organs.
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PRCA causes common anemia symptoms, which may include:
Pure red cell aplasia has several different causes. People who develop PRCA often have underlying medical conditions. It may also be a side effect of medications.
People can inherit PRCA or develop it because they have certain medical conditions. For example, people with Diamond-Blackfan anemia, an inherited anemia that’s usually diagnosed in childhood, may develop pure red cell aplasia. Other possible causes include:
Risk factors include carrying the inherited genetic mutation that causes Diamond-Blackfan anemia, having certain kinds of cancer and developing specific viral and bacterial infections.
Providers diagnose this condition by doing a physical examination, blood tests and imaging tests:
Treatment varies based on what caused you to develop PRCA. Options include:
Side effects vary depending on the treatment. Your healthcare provider will inform you of these side effects before you begin treatment. They’ll also help you manage treatment side effects.
Providers use immunoglobulin therapy to treat parvovirus B19. Side effects include:
Side effects vary depending on the type of immunosuppressant. These drugs can cause:
Providers may use blood transfusions if other treatments haven’t been effective. Fever and allergic reactions such as rashes or hives are common blood transfusion side effects. Less common side effects may include:
All surgeries come with certain risks and side effects. Common surgery side effects may include:
This depends on the treatment. People who take corticoid steroids often begin feeling better within a few weeks. People who have a thymectomy may need more time to recover.
No. Pure red cell aplasia happens for many different reasons, including underlying conditions that you can’t prevent.
This depends on what caused you to develop PRCA, the treatment and how well you responded to treatment. Life expectancy for someone who developed PRCA because they have chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CCL) may be different from someone who has PRCA because they have parvovirus B19.
Some studies show people with acquired PRCA live between 12 and at least 14 years after diagnosis. In general, people with this condition don’t live as long as the general population. It’s important to remember that survival rates and other data are estimates, not predictions. If you have PRCA, ask your healthcare provider about your prognosis or expected outcome.
In a sense, living with pure red cell aplasia is like living with a chronic illness. That’s because PRCA can come back. To prevent that, you may need regular treatment for the rest of your life. Treatment may include:
Following up with your healthcare providers is one of the best ways to take care of yourself. While treatment may have eliminated anemia symptoms, PRCA may come back. You may need additional treatment to reduce the risk of PRCA returning. People at risk for anemia sometimes benefit by:
Contact your healthcare provider any time you notice changes in your body that may be symptoms of anemia. If you’re receiving treatment for an underlying condition, contact that specialist if you notice your symptoms are getting worse.
Here are some questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider about pure red cell aplasia:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Pure red cell aplasia (PRCA) is a rare condition that happens for many different reasons. You may have PRCA because you have an autoimmune disorder or cancer. Some people develop PRCA because they were exposed to a common virus. Healthcare providers can treat pure red cell aplasia and eliminate anemia symptoms. That’s great news, of course, but PRCA can come back. You may need lifelong treatment to reduce that risk. If you have pure red cell aplasia, ask your healthcare provider what you can expect. They’ll explain any ongoing treatment you may need.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/21/2022.
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