Hemolytic anemia

General or Other | Hematology | Hemolytic anemia (Disease)


Hemolytic anemia is a condition in which there are not enough red blood cells in the blood, due to the premature destruction of red blood cells. Red blood cells are produced in the bone marrow and have a life span of 120 days, before they are destroyed by the body. In someone with hemolytic anemia, the red blood cells are destroyed too quickly. When this happens, the bone marrow becomes unable to produce enough red blood cells to keep up with the loss. Hemolytic anemia may be inherited, or caused by autoimmune disease, drugs, toxins, or infections.

Symptoms depend on the severity of the red blood cell destruction and the level of anemia and include: fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, chills, pale skin, dark urine, yellowing skin, rapid heart rate, and an enlarged spleen (splenomegaly).

Causes and Risk factors

A hemolytic anemia will develop if bone marrow activity cannot compensate for the erythrocyte loss. The severity of the anemia depends on whether the onset of hemolysis is gradual or abrupt and on the extent of erythrocyte destruction. Mild hemolysis can be asymptomatic while the anemia in severe hemolysis can be life threatening and cause angina and cardiopulmonary decompensation.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Treatment depends on the type and cause of the hemolytic anemia. Folic acid, iron replacement, and corticosteroids and vitamin B supplements may be used. In emergencies, a blood transfusion or removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be necessary. ...