Hemolytic anemia is a health condition caused by a deficiency of red blood cells. The shortage develops because of an imbalance between red blood cell destruction and production.
In a healthy state, red blood cells are continually being broken down, while replacements are being built at a similar rate. Evenness to cell death and creation.
With hemolytic anemia, your bone marrow cell production process is not at fault. Instead, it’s aberrant cell destruction to blame. In a nutshell, the lifespan of red blood cells is too short for bone marrow’s production team to keep up with.
Symptoms of hemolytic anemia can involve:
- pale skin
- dark urine
- rapid heart rate
- enlarged spleen
- unclear thinking
- liver enlargement
- exercise intolerance
Intrinsic and extrinsic are the two general types of hemolytic anemia. Intrinsic means that your red blood cell destruction is caused by a defect in the cells themselves. Extrinsic indicates cells are healthy when produced and some other factor is associated with the cause of their premature death.
Intrinsic hemolytic anemia is usually caused by some type of inherited health condition, such as:
- sickle cell anemia
- hereditary spherocytosis
- pyruvate kinase deficiency
- glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency
There are many causes of extrinsic hemolytic anemia. In some cases, this type of anemia is an autoimmune or immune system genesis problem. Your immune system mistakenly responds to healthy red blood cells as dangerous, foreign invaders and launches antibodies, which induces their untimely demise.
Some of the causes for extrinsic hemolytic anemia are:
- blood transfusion
- strenuous activity
- leukemia, lymphoma
- hemolytic uremic syndrome
- pregnancy ~ if baby’s blood type differs
- organ, bone marrow, stem cell transplant
- cold temperature causing cold-reactive antibodies
- chemical, toxin exposure ~ arsenic, lead, snake bite
- autoimmune disorders ~ rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, ulcerative colitis
- infections ~ fifth disease, mono, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus,typhoid fever, E. coli, strep, HIV
Drug induced immune hemolytic anemia occurs when a medicine triggers your immune system attack on red blood cells. Drugs that can cause this type of hemolytic anemia include:
- sulfa drugs
- some NSAIDs
- quinidine ~ malaria
- levodopa ~ Parkinson’s
- methyldopa ~ high blood pressure
- cephalosporins ~ class of antibiotics
If the cause for premature red blood cell annihilation is unknown, then it’s cited as idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
Some types of extrinsic hemolytic anemia are only temporary. Other types are chronic with periods of remissions and flares.
Treatment depends on the type and cause of your hemolytic anemia. Some means for treating it consist of:
- folic acid
- spleen removal
- iron replacement
- blood transfusions
- corticosteroids ~ prednisone
Mild symptoms caused by hemolytic anemia may not require treatment. Severe hemolytic anemia usually needs continuous treatment. And can be fatal if not treated appropriately.