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Alternative Names Return to topAnemia - hemolytic
Definition Return to top
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. There are a number of specific types of hemolytic anemia, which are described individually.
Causes Return to top
Hemolytic anemia occurs when the bone marrow is unable to increase production to make up for the premature destruction of red blood cells. If the bone marrow is able to keep up with the early destruction, anemia does not occur (sometimes called compensated hemolysis).
There are many types of hemolytic anemia, which are classified by the reason for the premature destruction of red blood cells. The defect may be in the red blood cell itself (intrinsic factor), or outside the red blood cell (extrinsic factors).
Intrinsic factors are often present at birth (hereditary). They include:
Extrinsic factors include:
Types of hemolytic anemia include:
Symptoms Return to top
Exams and Tests Return to top
These are tests for red blood cell destruction (hemolysis). Specific tests can identify the types of hemolytic anemia. They are usually performed when hemolysis is suspected or has been determined.
Directly measuring the red cell life span with radioactive tagging techniques shows a shortened life span.
This disease may also affect the following test results, depending on the specific cause:
Treatment Return to top
Treatment depends on the type and cause of the hemolytic anemia. Folic acid, iron replacement, and corticosteroids may be used. In emergencies, a blood transfusion or removal of the spleen (splenectomy) may be necessary.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
The outcome depends on the type and cause of hemolytic anemia.
Possible Complications Return to top
The complications depend on the specific type of hemolytic anemia. Severe anemia can cause cardiovascular collapse. Severe anemias can aggravate heart disease, lung disease, or cerebrovascular disease.
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you develop symptoms of hemolytic anemia.
Prevention Return to top
There is no known prevention for hemolytic anemia.
References Return to top
Schwartz RS. Autoimmune and intravascular hemolytic anemias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007: chap 164.Update Date: 11/23/2008 Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.