Hemolytic Anemia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

If someone in your family or friend circle is complaining tiredness, fatigue and weakness without doing much physical activity and his or her skin is turning steadily pale then maybe it is an early indication of what is medically known as Hemolytic Anemia, the condition if ignored has potential to cause major health trouble in near future and in some case you be ready to hear death knells. Nobody for no reason is ready to die without knowing why he or she is going to die for the sickness that could have been easily surmounted with little knowledge and medical help. This illness is not the monopoly of people of any cast and creed or gender. Anyone of any age of any place on globe can be victim due to a host of reasons and may suffer several of types of anemia and fatality.

What is Hemolytic Anemia?

Hemolytic Anemia is in commoners’ word, a condition in which the red blood cells (RBC) in your blood die premature death without giving full performance of its 120 days natural life span. The phenomenon in which the red blood cells get destroyed is called “hemolysis” in medical language.

The RBC as well as WBC (white blood cell) is naturally produced in the bone marrow. The production and destruction equation in a healthy person is perfectly balanced but in case of illness of Hemolytic Anemia the equation is disturbed due to so many reasons and production fails to meet demand in the blood stream hence a person feels fatigue and weakness.

A really weakness problem in normal case is readily treated with complete rest, taking an affordable regimen of supplemental medicines and having sound sleep but a person suffering from this sickness has reason to lose sleep and consult the medical professional at the first blush. If not properly treated the story will not end on weakness but will further drift into deadly channels of pain, irregular heartbeat, abnormally enlarging and failure of heart in the end.

Anybody of any age any time can become victim of this ailment. The ailment in question affects more African-Americans than that of Caucasians as revealed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). It is common observation that Sickle cell anemia is more among African-Americans.

Types of Hemolytic Anemia

There are basically two types of Hemolytic Anemia (HA) such as Inherited HA and Acquired HA.

Inherited HA: In the case of Inherited HA the faulty genes that control the production of RBC is responsible for the disease. This case is hereditary and transferred to the children. This needs special care to combat the disease as the patient lives his or her life.

Acquired HA: In the case of Acquired HA you are lucky not to carry the defect in your genes (by birth) but not lucky afterwards as you acquire it by some means. This type is indirectly treated by treating the diseases causing anemic condition.

Hemolytic Anemia Causes

Premature destruction of RBC is the first cause. The RBCs are destroyed without living fullest in the blood stream and then removed from the blood as unwanted object. Such destruction and removal of RBC from the blood stream is caused by so many factors like some diseases, body condition and other factors. The cause is divided into two major groups as intrinsic and extrinsic.

Intrinsic cause: This is inherent cause; a person is born with it. These are may be because of defective cycle of hemoglobin production or defective RBC metabolism or defective production of RBC membrane.

Extrinsic cause: This is external cause of getting hemolytic Anemia. This is caused by administration of some drugs or immune mediation to name a few, but the list is long.

Hemolytic Anemia Symptoms

The type and the severity of the attack will dictate what sign and symptom would appear in the patient. The most common sign as experienced is fatigue (tiredness) in the patient.

In mild nature of sickness no sign will appear. It is the severe case wherein an affected person shows variety of signs. Fatigue is a body condition when body doesn’t get sufficient supply of oxygen. In case of being anemic the low count of RBC, the oxygen carries hence shortage of oxygen supply leading to weakness and tiredness.

Having known the mechanism of handiwork of the illness let’s try to understand other signs and symptoms as they appear in the patient. After fatigue the second most common symptom is your skin and eyes color turning yellowish. The urine color change to dark brown yellow.

When RBC breakdown, the damaged cells are filtered out in spleen in the upper abdomen. In case of hemolytic Anemia the Spleen becomes enlarged which is the reason you feel pain in upper abdomen.

In case of sickle cell anemia the cells in the shape of farmer sickle, choke the tiny blood vessels in the legs causing leg sores and painful body from top to bottom.

If transfused blood is of different type, the Hemolytic Anemia so developed shows severe reaction in the form of chills, low BP, a medical condition shock which is a medical emergency case, needing immediate medical treatment.

Diagnosis of Hemolytic Anemia

Signs and symptoms such as fast heartbeat, yellow skin and eyes and lips, person complaining having tiredness without much physical efforts, these are early indications of Hemolytic Anemia. The problem can be further deducted from physical examination by your family physician. If required you may be asked for going under particular medical checks.

CBC (Complete Blood Count)

Hemoglobin in RBC full of iron rich protein and is performing the task of taking oxygen to each and every cell of your body. The CBC test finds the numbers, size and shape of the red blood cell. You are simply anemic if there is low level of hemoglobin as deduced by CBC.

Additional Test

Once CBC showed anemic condition other following tests find the type and the severity of anemia. The Reticulocyte count measures the quantity of RBC production. Comb’s test finds antibodies which is responsible for destruction of RBC. Liver function test decides the performance of the liver.

Urine Test

This test clearly tells you if there is presence of free hemoglobin and iron in the urine sample.

Bone marrow Test

The RBCs and WBCs are produced in bone marrow. A healthy bone marrow will produced enough quantity of cells. To understand this performance the expert needs a sample of the bone marrow. Aspiration and biopsy is the common test to collect the marrow. Under local anesthesia to prevent feeling of pain, usually posterior area or back of the hip or the iliac crest, the needle is pricked deep to draw marrow sample which is ultimately studied under microscope to look for the faulty cells.


Considering the severity and the type of the disease and also the age, gender, health condition of the patient the treatment is suitably devised. For a mild case no special treatment is needed. But in severe case you have to be prepared for particular course of action which may include medicines, blood transfusion, plasmapheresis, surgery, blood and marrow stem transplant and lastly major change in your life style in case you have inherited the sickness from your parents.

Treatment option for Hemolytic anemia consists of:

Blood Transfusion

In severe condition the best option is to go for blood transfusion because the incoming supply of healthy blood quickly increase RBC count as well as replace destroyed blood cells with renewed supply.


The immune system is jolted down because of low blood cell count hence infections can do more harm. An immune globulin by way of IV (Intra Venous) in hospital helps improve immunity do threat of infection is greatly controlled.


This is again hospitalization case. The affected blood from the body is removed using needle inserted into a vein. The plasma containing antibodies is separated and replaced by donor’s healthy plasma and the same blood is pumped back into the system.


An enlarged or diseased spleen when unable to filter out damaged RBCs sufficiently and remove more than required quantity of cells, it needs to be removed hence surgery becomes necessary.

Blood and Marrow Stem Cell Transplant

The bone marrow fails to produce sufficient number of healthy RBC in Thalassemia a type of anemia. This necessitates blood and marrow transplant which replaces the defective cells by healthy cells of a donor.

Lifestyle Changes

When a patient is found with AIHA with cold-reactive antibodies any cold temperature condition gives rise breaking down of the RBCs. Therefore it is necessary to avoid cold condition particularly tips of fingers, toes, ears are to be protected from cold condition.

Hemolytic Anemia Prevention

As you know prevention is better than cure therefore alerted by early signs and symptoms one shall go for actual diagnosis to clarify the doubts and in case of real ailment go for the active treatment thus living happily in the end. Your family doctor is more than competent to diagnose as he knows you, your family medical history, and the results of your blood and urine tests in the course of your treatment. If so required the doctor can refer you to hematologist who is specialized in treatment of blood related diseases.

Careful matching of blood before transfusion and during pregnancy Rh Incompatibility problem can be taken care of to prevent the disease. Inherited type HA wherein G6PD deficiency is found, the person must avoid things that trigger the condition for example avoiding fava beans, moth balls having naphthalene and some medicines as suggested by your doctor.


The disease is both treatable and preventable at the same time potential killer. It is also manageable even if someone is suffering due to genetic inadequacy. The initial signs and symptoms must not be mistaken for workload, stress or heavy travelling. Once alerted an immediate action is to consult the family physician and ask for his or her advice. Clear your doubt at once. If you are by ill luck bearing the disease than take it easy, go for the treatment, follow doctor’s advice. Even in case of genetic problem change the life style to suit to your health. This is sufficient to get cured. The medical expense is also not much. Inform your insurer about the ailment and the period of the treatment and approximate expense. Discuss with your near and dear one. Share the worries to lessen the emotional burden. No ailment on the face of the earth is incurable. Human’s natural strength fights almost all challenges of life with head always held high.