Bone marrow in your body is responsible for producing all kinds of blood cells namely red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Each of them has discrete function and helps in maintaining the body healthy. Sometimes, red blood cells are destroyed no sooner than it is produced. Hemolysis is the process of destruction of destruction of red blood cells. Mild form of hemolysis may not produce any symptoms but in severe cases it can cause hemolytic anemia.
People with blood related disorders like sickle cell anemia, leukemia and lymphoma cancer are at high risk of developing hemolytic anemia. In severe cases it can be life threatening when the vital organs are damaged. Variety of infections and prolonged use of certain drugs can cause hemolytic anemia. This disorder can be treated with blood transfusion, corticosteroid drugs and various other approaches.
Hemolytic anemia can occur due to external or internal causes. When the spleen of your own body traps all the healthy red blood cells and destroys them you may develop extrinsic hemolytic anemia. The same type of anemia can develop due to other causes like autoimmune disorders and blood cancer.
Intrinsic hemolytic anemia is one in which the causes are internal. Here the bone marrow produces defective blood cells. People with blood related disorders like sickle cell anemia develop this kind of anemia. People belonging to African American origin are prone to develop hemolytic anemia.
Destruction of red blood cells and defective red blood cells are the major cause for hemolytic anemia. Some of the factors that cause hemolytic anemia are viral infections like Hepatitis or EBV, blood disorders like sickle cell anemia, certain types of cancer like lymphoma, leukemia and blood tumors and prolonged use of pain-killers. Autoimmune disorders like lupus, Wiscott Aldridge syndrome and bacterial infection like Streptococcus can cause hemolytic anemia. For some people, the cause is idiopathic (unknown).
People affected with hemolytic anemia can become easily tired. It can cause mild fever, pale skin, confusion, dizziness, poor concentration and light headedness. For mild form of hemolytic anemia, there will not be any symptoms and it becomes evident when your blood is tested for other reasons. Severe hemolytic anemia can cause shortness of breath (tachycardia), stomach pain (if gallstones are formed due to bilirubin) and general weakness.
Based on your symptoms, your doctor may order for complete blood test, which will show the levels of blood cells. Bone marrow biopsy may also be done for confirming the result. Your doctor will take out a sample tissue from your hip bone using a tiny needle which is tested under microscope to detect hemolytic anemia.
Treatment for hemolytic anemia is based on the severity of symptoms and health condition. Again, the treatment approach varies as per the type of hemolytic anemia and its root cause. The main method of treating this disorder is supplementing with folic acid, corticosteroids and immunoglobulin. If the root cause of hemolytic anemia is autoimmune disorder it is treated with corticosteroids.
- Transfusion :
Blood transfusion is the ideal method of treatment but only the doctor will decide if you are suitable for undergoing several transfusions. For patients with severe form of hemolytic anemia who have developed symptoms of angina transfusion of blood becomes necessary. Blood transfusion is done on in-patient basis with close monitor by your doctor.
Transfused blood has the chance of undergoing rapid destruction of red blood cells and hence the process should be done slowly. Transfusion can cause overload of iron content in blood that has to be treated with suitable medications and chelation therapy.
- Erythropoietin Therapy :
Patients with chronic hemolytic anemia, renal failure, sickle cell disease and Jehovah’s witnesses can undergo erythropoietin treatment.
- Immuno Globulin :
Immune globulin is given through intravenous injection for patients with autoimmune disorder. This helps in suppressing the immune system that attacks the bone marrow.
- Corticosteroids :
Effective corticosteroids are given for chronic form of hemolytic anemia. These drugs are effective in modifying the immune system’s response in producing antibodies. Prednisone is recommended for many patients with severe hemolytic anemia. Folic acid is effective in boosting the count of fresh red blood cells. Surgery is the last option for chronic cases of HA in which spleen (that destroys the blood cells) will be removed.