Hemolytic anemia is a condition characterized by destruction and removal of red blood cells from the blood stream, before their lifespan is over. It is a type of anemia which can be either inherited or acquired in nature.
Mild forms of hemolytic anemia seldom produce any symptoms, as in such individuals the hemoglobin levels also appear to be normal. When the disease progresses gradually, the following symptoms are evident:
When the disease advances to more severe forms, the affected individuals suffer from the following symptoms :
At preliminary levels, complete blood count can provide some insight about the type and nature of the hemolytic anemia. Following this, a physical examination may reveal hepatomegaly or tenderness in the abdominal region. In addition, other blood tests would also be required in order to make a definite diagnosis about the type of hemolytic anemia that has set in and also to identify the causative factor.
The standard types of blood tests that are required in addition to complete blood count include peripheral blood smear, serum haptoglobin, serum lactate dehydrogenase and indirect bilirubin. Of these, serum haptoglobin and serum lactatce dehydrogenase study are considered to be sensitive tests for diagnosing hemolytic anemia. Bone marrow aspiration tests would be necessary in order to evaluate the type of red blood cells produced by the bone marrow .
The treatment regime for hemolytic anemia depends on the cause and type of anemia that has set in. The following methods are employed for treating hemolytic anemia:
The prognosis of hemolytic anemia largely depends on the type and cause of the condition. Mild cases can be treated and patients can live a healthy life without complications. However, in severe cases, hemolytic anemia can worsen already existing disease conditions such as lung disorders, heart anomalies and cerebrovascular diseases .
Hemolytic anemia develops, when the bone marrow is unable to replace the loss of red blood cells. Destruction and removal of red blood cells from the system can occur due to many factors such as underlying disease conditions, infections and toxins. Individuals with sickle cell anemia, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency and thalassemia are at an increased risk of contracting this disease condition .
Exposure to various types of toxins or chemical also predisposes an individual to develop such a type of anemia. In addition, other factors such as blood clot in a blood vessel or blood transfusion from an unmatched donor can also favor the development of hemolytic anemia.
It has been estimated that 5% of all anemia represent hemolytic anemia. The condition does not affect any particular type of race; but sickle cell anemia is a common occurrence amongst the African population. Individuals with sickle cell anemia are prone to develop hemolytic anemia and therefore, it is understood that the African people are at an increased risk of developing the same. Hemolytic anemia that occurs as a result of heredity, affects an individual early in life .
Under normal physiological conditions, the bone marrow produces red blood cells which are gradually replaced when they complete their lifespan. In condition of hemolytic anemia, there is premature destruction of red blood cells and the bone marrow is unable to replenish the lost stores. Hemolysis occurs as a result of intravascular or extravascular factors .
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia results, when the body’s own immune system mistakenly attacks the red blood cells by producing antibodies which prematurely destroy them . The condition can also occur when precursors of red blood cells are destroyed in the bone marrow itself prior to being released into the circulation.
It is not possible to prevent the inherited forms of hemolytic anemia. However, some of the acquired forms can be prevented. This can be done by proper matching of the blood prior to blood transfusions. Rh incompatibility can also be avoided to prevent the development of hemolytic anemia in the newborn .
Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen to various body tissues. Normally, lifespan of red blood cells is about 120 days. I condition of hemolytic anemia they are prematurely destroyed. Hemolytic anemia can either be intrinsic or extrinsic in nature. The former type occurs when the healthy red blood cells of the body are destroyed; whereas in the latter type, the bone marrow produces defective type of red blood cells .