Hemolytic Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you do not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout your body. Hemolytic anemia occurs when your red blood cells are being destroyed faster than they are being produced. Hemolytic anemia can affect people of all ages. It may worsen existing heart or lung disease. There are many types of hemolytic anemia, and they can be divided into two different groups: inherited and acquired.

Inherited hemolytic anemia is due to a gene that your parents passed on to you. The abnormal cells may break down while moving through your circulatory system. Your spleen may remove the abnormal blood cells and debris from your blood stream. Acquired hemolytic anemia occurs when your red blood cells are destroyed either by certain medicines that you have used or as a result of infections or diseases that you have.

CAUSES

Hemolytic anemia is caused by red blood cell destruction. Sometimes the reasons for the destruction are not clear. Known causes include:

  • Inherited disorders, such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemias.

  • Use of certain medicines.

  • Blood infection (septicemia).

  • Exposure to toxic chemicals or excessive radiation.

  • Reactions to blood transfusions.

  • Certain immune disorders.

  • Artificial heart valves.

  • Enlarged spleens.

SYMPTOMS

  • Pale skin, eyes, and fingernails.

  • Irregular or fast heartbeat.

  • Headaches.

  • Tiredness (fatigue) and weakness.

  • Dizziness or fainting.

  • Shortness of breath.

  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice).

  • Chest pain.

  • Cold hands and feet.

DIAGNOSIS

Your health care provider will do a physical exam and ask questions about your symptoms. Blood tests, urine tests, and taking bone marrow tissue (biopsies) may be done to help find the cause of your anemia.

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the cause of your anemia. Treatment may include:

  • Medicines.

  • Blood transfusions.

  • Plasmapheresis.

  • Blood and bone marrow stem cell transplant.

  • Surgery to remove the spleen.

HOME CARE INSTRUCTIONS

  • Only take over-the-counter or prescription medicines as directed by your health care provider. If you are given antibiotics, take them as directed. Finish them even if you start to feel better.

  • Take over-the-counter iron supplements as directed by your health care provider.

  • Decrease the chances of getting sick by:

  • Washing your hands often.

  • Staying away from people who are sick.

  • Getting a flu shot and pneumonia shot if recommended by your health care provider.

  • Avoid certain kinds of foods that can expose you to bacteria, such as uncooked foods.

  • Keep all follow-up appointments with your health care provider.

SEEK MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • You become dizzy or tired easily.

  • Your skin looks pale.

  • You feel your heart beating faster than normal.

  • You feel like your heart has skipped or stopped beats (irregular heartbeat).

SEEK IMMEDIATE MEDICAL CARE IF:

  • Your skin and eyes turn yellow.

  • You develop chest pain.

  • You become short of breath.

  • You faint.

  • You develop an uncontrolled cough.

MAKE SURE YOU:

  • Understand these instructions.

  • Will watch your condition.

  • Will get help right away if you are not doing well or get worse.