Chronic hemolytic anemia is a rare blood disorder that results in the premature destruction of red blood cells. Symptoms can vary but may include shortness of breath, fatigue, and pale skin. Chronic hemolytic anemia is most often caused by a defect in the red blood cell’s genetic material, which can lead to problems with the production or function of red blood cells. Treatment options vary depending on the underlying cause of the disease but may include medications, blood transfusions, or surgery. Read on to find more.
Causes of Chronic Hemolytic Anemia
Causes of chronic hemolytic anemia can include autoimmune diseases, infections, and inherited disorders. In some cases, the cause is unknown.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemias are a group of disorders in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys its red blood cells. The two most common types are warm autoimmune hemolytic anemia (WAIHA) and cold autoimmune hemolytic anemia (CAIHA).
WAIHA is more common, affecting about one person in 100,000. It occurs when antibodies attach to red blood cells, causing them to be destroyed by the body’s immune system. This can be triggered by certain medications, such as penicillin, or by infections, such as the Epstein-Barr virus. WAIHA is more likely to occur in women than men, and it is most common in people of northern European descent.
CAIHA is less common, affecting about one person in 1 million. It occurs when antibodies attach to red blood cells and cause them to be destroyed when the temperature drops. This can be triggered by cold weather, or by exposure to cold medications or objects. CAIHA is more likely to occur in men than women, and it is most common in people of Asian descent.
Symptoms of Chronic Hemolytic Anemia
The most common symptoms of chronic hemolytic anemia are fatigue, shortness of breath, and rapid heart rate. These symptoms may be caused by the anemia itself or by other health problems that are related to the anemia.
Anemia can cause fatigue because the body does not have enough oxygen-carrying red blood cells. When there are not enough red blood cells, the body must work harder to get enough oxygen to the tissues. This can lead to fatigue.
Shortness of breath
Anemia can also cause shortness of breath because the heart has to work harder to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the lungs. This can lead to shortness of breath, especially with activity.
Rapid heart rate
Anemia can cause a rapid heart rate because the heart has to work harder to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body. A rapid heart rate may also be a sign of other health problems, such as heart disease.
Other symptoms of chronic hemolytic anemia may include pale skin, dark urine, and yellowing of the skin (jaundice). These symptoms may be caused by other health problems that are related to anemia.
Diagnosing Chronic Hemolytic Anemia
To diagnose chronic hemolytic anemia, your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical history. They may also order some tests, such as:
-A CBC (complete blood count) to check the number of red blood cells and look for signs of hemolysis
-A blood film to examine the shape and size of red blood cells
-A serum bilirubin level to test for jaundice
-An antibody test to look for antibodies that may be causing the hemolysis
-A reticulocyte count to measure the number of young red blood cells in the bloodstream
-A haptoglobin test to measure levels of this protein, which is released when red blood cells are destroyed
If you have chronic hemolytic anemia, your doctor will likely treat the underlying cause of the condition. For example, if a viral infection is causing hemolysis, they may prescribe antiviral medication. If an autoimmune disorder is to blame, they may recommend immunosuppressive drugs. In some cases, a blood transfusion may be necessary.
Treatment for Chronic Hemolytic Anemia
There is no specific cure for chronic hemolytic anemia, but there are treatments that can help manage the condition. Treatment options include:
-Blood transfusions: If your anemia is severe, you may need regular blood transfusions to maintain your red blood cell count.
-Medications: Medications such as erythropoietin (EPO) and iron supplements can help improve your red blood cell count.
-Dialysis: If you have end-stage renal disease, you may require dialysis to help remove toxins from your blood.
-Hematopoietic stem cell transplant: In some cases, a hematopoietic stem cell transplant may be necessary to replace damaged or destroyed red blood cells.
Chronic hemolytic anemia is a blood disorder that can cause serious health problems. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with this condition, it’s important to learn as much as possible about it so you can make informed decisions about your treatment. In this comprehensive guide, we have discussed the causes, symptoms, and treatments of chronic hemolytic anemia. We hope this information has helped you manage your condition and live a healthy life.