Hemolytic anemia is a disorder of red blood cells in which the destruction of red cells is much faster than its production. Hemolysis is the term used by medical fraternity for destruction of red cells. Hemolytic anemia is classified into two categories namely intrinsic and extrinsic hemolytic anemia.
Intrinsic is inherited where the defect lies in red cells from birth. In extrinsic hemolytic anemia, the production of red blood cell is normal, but they are destroyed later on due to various reasons during circulation.
Hemolytic anemia can occur in adults as well as children.The symptoms are same as any other type of anemia such as pale skin, fatigue, physical weakness etc. Treatment consists of addressing the underlying cause, blood transfusion, corticosteroids and managing pain.
Causes Of Hemolytic Anemia
Normally the red cell circulates in the blood for 120 days after which they are destroyed and removed by the liver, spleen. Hemolytic anemia results when the destruction of red cells is quicker than the normal time of lysis. This type of anemia occurs due to two reasons. Either there is defect in the red cells since birth as in case of sickle cell anemia and thalassaemia.It is termed as intrinsic hemolytic anemia. Extrinsic (acquired) hemolytic anemia occurs when the destruction rate of normal circulating red cell is faster.
Number of factors can cause extrinsic hemolytic anemia such as; entrapment in spleen, infection, drugs, autoimmune disorders, over activity of spleen, hemolytic anemia caused by animal venom tec. Hemolytic anemia can also occur due to incorrect blood transfusion.
Acquired hemolytic anemia can be temporary or chronic. Temporary can resolve within few months. Chronic acquired hemolytic anemia can prolong for long duration with frequent episodes of flare ups and remission.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hemolytic Anemia
The symptoms of hemolytic anemia are almost similar to those of any other type of anemia. Below are given important symptoms of hemolytic anemic:
- Pale skin, lips and tongue.
- Dark yellow or brown urine.
- Enlarged spleen
- Confusion and dizziness.
- Ulcers in ankle joint.
- Retarded growth in children.
Treatment Options For Hemolytic Anemia
Treatment of hemolytic anemia depends on the age of the individual, the severity, underlying cause etc. It also depends on how well the body tolerates to specific drugs necessary to treat hemolytic anemia. Hemolytic anemia treatment consists of:
- Blood transfusion: In many cases blood transfusion is required to increase the red blood cell count in the circulation as the red cells are destroyed quickly. Blood transfusion is often necessary in thalassaemia major.
- Corticosteroid medications are main line treatment in case of hemolytic anemia caused due to acquired hemolytic anemia resulting from autoimmune disease.
- Immunoglobulin therapy helps to revive the low immune system which helps in fighting infections.
- Surgery is the last option when all the other three options fail. Spleen is removed. Red cells are destroyed in spleen. Its removal may reduce the rate of destruction of red blood cells.
Hemolytic anemia has various underlying causes. In some patients the symptoms do not last for long period and they resolve with treatment. In some patients the disease may need the treatment for lifetime. In such chronic cases care should be taken to prevent infection. This can be done by taking necessary vaccines such as influenza vaccine and avoiding overcrowded places and giving importance to hygiene.