What is hemolytic anemia?
Hemolytic anemia is a disorder in which the red blood cells are destroyed faster than the bone marrow can produce them. The term for destruction of red blood cells is hemolysis. There are two types of hemolytic anemia, including the following:
• intrinsic - the destruction of the red blood cells due to a defect within the red blood cells themselves. Intrinsic hemolytic anemias are often inherited, such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia. These conditions produce red blood cells that do not live as long as normal red blood cells.
• extrinsic - red blood cells are produced healthy but are later destroyed by becoming trapped in the spleen, destroyed by infection, or destroyed from drugs that can affect red blood cells. The following lists some of the causes of extrinsic hemolytic anemia, also called autoimmune hemolytic anemia:
o infections, such as hepatitis, cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), typhoid fever, E. coli, or streptococcus
o medications, such as penicillin, antimalaria medications, sulfa medications, or acetaminophen
o leukemia or lymphoma
o autoimmune disorders, such as systemic lupus erythematous (SLE, or lupus), rheumatoid arthritis, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome, or ulcerative colitis
o various tumors
Some types of extrinsic hemolytic anemia are temporary and resolve over several months. Other types can become chronic with periods of remissions and recurrence.
What are the symptoms of hemolytic anemia?
The following are the most common symptoms of hemolytic anemia. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:
• abnormal paleness or lack of color of the skin
• jaundice, or yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mouth
• dark color to urine
• intolerance to physical activity
• enlargement of the spleen and liver
• increased heart rate (tachycardia)
• heart murmur
The symptoms of hemolytic anemia may resemble other blood conditions or medical problems. Always consult your physician for a diagnosis.
How is hemolytic anemia diagnosed?
Hemolytic anemia is usually discovered during a medical examination through a routine blood test. In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for hemolytic anemia may include additional blood tests and other evaluation procedures, particularly to check for an enlarged spleen or liver.
Treatment for hemolytic anemia:
Specific treatment for hemolytic anemia will be determined by your physician based on:
• your age, overall health, and medical history
• extent of the disease
• cause of the disease
• your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
• expectations for the course of the disease
• your opinion or preference
• Hemolytic anemia is often difficult to treat.
Treatment may include:
• vitamin and mineral supplements
• change in diet
• treatment of the causative disease
• splenectomy - surgery to remove the spleen.