Hemolytic Anemia

Also known as: acquired hemolytic anemia, autoimmune hemolytic anemia, extrinsic hemolytic anemia, intrinsic hemolytic anemia

What is hemolytic anemia?

Anemia is a disorder in which the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells. Hemolysis is a method whereby red blood cells are broken down and destroyed. There are are large number of different ways this can happen and therefore there are a large number of types of hemolytic anemia. As red cells are broken down, the bone marrow has to produce more new ones, faster. Depending on how fast (acute hemolytic anemia) or slowly (chronic hemolytic anemia) the red cells are destroyed (and the bone marrow attempts to replace them) so the signs/symptoms and complication will vary.

What causes hemolytic anemia?
In general, one can divide hemolytic anemias into those causes that infants/children a born with from an abnormality of the red cell wall (Intrinsic- congenital hemolytic anemias- e.g. Sickle cell anemia etc) and those that are caused after birth from a multitude of different factors outside the cell (Extrinsic- infection, medicines, cancers, autoimmune disorders etc).

What are the signs/symptoms of hemolytic anemia?
Depending whether the hemolysis is acute or chronic, signs/symptoms will vary from minimal, to pale skin, dark urine, yellow eyes/skin, a large liver and spleen and symptoms of anemia like weakness, dizziness, fatigue, and a fast heartbeat.

What are hemolytic anemia care options?
Depending on the underlying cause, treatment options may include blood and/or exchange transfusions, corticosteroids, immunosuppressive therapy, erythropoietin, other medications and splenectomy.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 5/23/2018 2:33:14 PM


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