Hemolytic Anemia

Posted October 4, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 4 min read

Hemolytic anemia is a blood disorder that makes your red blood cells break down or die faster than your body can replace them with new blood cells. People may develop hemolytic anemia due to genetic conditions that cause anemia.

Causes of Hemolytic anemia

Hemolytic anemia may be caused by inherited conditions that affect the red blood cells. It’s also caused by certain infections or if someone receives a blood transfusion from a donor whose blood type didn’t match.

Inherited conditions that cause Hemolytic anemia

Some common inherited conditions are:

  • Sickle cell anemia: In this disease, your body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells that are trapped in small blood vessels, your spleen or liver.

  • Thalassemia: This is another group of inherited blood disorders that cause your body to make abnormal red blood cells that are easily destroyed.

  • G6PD deficiency: This genetic disorder affects an enzyme that protects red blood cells. When this enzyme level drops, blood cells exposed to certain infections or medications are likely to break apart.

Infections that cause Hemolytic anemia

Infections linked to hemolytic anemia include:

  • Malaria: This disease happens when mosquitos infected with tiny malaria parasites bite people, leaving parasites in people’s bloodstreams. Left untreated, malaria can cause hemolytic anemia.

  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever: This infection spreads when ticks infected with the bacteria Rickettsia rickettsi bite people.

  • Haemophilus influenza disease: These are infections caused by the bacteria H. influenza.

  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): This virus causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

Medications that cause Hemolytic anemia

Some people develop hemolytic anemia from taking certain medications. Not everyone who takes these medications will develop hemolytic anemia. Your healthcare provider will review your medical history and current problems to be sure you can take these medications. These medications include:

  • Penicillin: This antibiotic treats infections and other serious medical problems.

  • Quinine: This medication treats malaria.

  • Methyldopa: This medication treats high blood pressure.

  • Sulfonamides: This is an anti-bacterial medication.

Symptoms of Hemolytic anemia

  • Jaundice: This condition affects your skin, the whites of your eyes (sclera) and your mucous membranes, causing them to turn yellow. This happens when you have a high level of bilirubin caused by a breakdown of your red blood cells.

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea): This happens when you don’t have enough red blood cells carrying oxygen throughout your body.

  • Fatigue: Fatigue is a sensation of being so tired that it affects your daily life and your ability to do your daily activities.

  • Fast heartbeat (tachycardia): This condition means your heart is beating faster than it should. When your heart beats too fast, it doesn’t have enough time between beats to fill up with blood, and your heart can’t supply your body with the oxygen it needs.

  • Low blood pressure (hypotension): Low blood pressure can be a symptom or a condition. It happens when your blood pressure is much lower than expected.

  • Blood in your pee (hematuria): This can be a symptom of sickle cell disease.

  • Enlarged spleen or liver: Your liver and spleen filter red blood cells as the cells move through your body. Red blood cells that are damaged or dying are trapped by your spleen and liver, which destroy the cells. A larger-than-normal spleen or liver may be a sign your red blood cells are damaged.

Diagnosis of Hemolytic anemia

  • Coombs test (direct antiglobulin test): This test checks for autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

  • Reticulocyte count: A reticulocyte count measures the number of immature red blood cells (reticulocytes) in your bone marrow. Healthcare providers measure reticulocytes to find out if your bone marrow is producing enough healthy red blood cells.

  • Haptoglobin test: Haptoglobin is a protein that eliminates debris produced by damaged red blood cells. Low haptoglobin levels may be a sign of damaged red blood cells.

  • Lactate dehydrogenase (LDH): LDH is an enzyme in red blood cells. A high LDH level may be a sign of increased red blood cell destruction.

  • Unconjugated bilirubin: When your red blood cells break down, they make bilirubin. This test measures the amount of bilirubin that’s not being processed by your liver. This is unconjugated bilirubin. A high unconjugated bilirubin level may be a sign that large numbers of red blood cells are being destroyed.

  • Peripheral blood smear: Healthcare providers examine blood cells for signs of abnormalities, including size and shape.

  • Hemoglobin electrophoresis: Healthcare providers use this test to analyze hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells that helps cells carry oxygen throughout your body.

Treatment of Hemolytic anemia

  • Healthcare providers treat hemolytic anemia based on the cause of your illness and if you’re having severe symptoms.

  • For example, if your healthcare provider believes you have severe anemia, they may order blood transfusions to stabilize your red blood cell count.

  • Then they’ll diagnose the underlying condition that’s causing you to have anemia so they can treat the condition.

hemolytic-anemia diseases disorders

Subscribe For More Content