about diamond blackfan anemia
Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA) is a potentially life threatening, rare genetic blood disorder, characterized by severe chronic anemia due to complete or partial failure of the bone marrow to produce red blood cells.
DBA is more commonly diagnosed within the first year of life. In some cases patients are born in remission and will present with the symptoms later. In either case, the patient presents with pale skin, weakness, critically low hemoglobin, and difficulty breathing. DBA can be diagnosed by genetic testing, medical and family history, a physical examination, blood counts, levels of the enzyme adenosine deaminase in the blood or a bone marrow biopsy.
Many DBA patients also have other medical problems associated with DBA such as short stature, thumb abnormalities and heart problems amongst others. DBA effects 7 in every 1 million live births with only 25-35 newly diagnosed cases in Canada and the US each year.
The exact cause is not clear, but the problem seems to be a fault in one of the early steps of red blood cell production following the mutation or deletion of certain DBA genes, only 11 of which have yet been identified. These mutations interfere with the working of the cell, preventing the production of red cells. The cause of the mutation or deletion is as yet unknown.
Currently there is no cure for DBA. A bone marrow transplant has the ability to eliminate the need for transfusions or steroids but this is a very risky procedure.
My son, 10 year old Jack, diagnosed at 12 weeks with DBA, relies on regular blood transfusions to survive. He receives blood every 3 weeks. He will continue to need one for the rest of his life, unless he goes into remission or doctors decide he is a candidate for a stem cell transplant, which holds it's own risks.
The only other treatment for DBA is a steroid based treatment administered after the child reaches one year of age, followed by long term maintenance with low doses.
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