What Is Hemolytic Anemia? Types, Causes, Treatments

Hemolytic anemia refers to a condition where red blood cells are destroyed by the body far before their original lifespan has come to an end. Red blood cells are oval discs which move through your blood to bring oxygen to your body, and remove carbon dioxide. Red blood cells are made by the bone marrow in the centre of our bones. Their normal lifespan is one hundred and twenty days, after which they die and are recycled out of the body.

Like red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, part of what makes up the remainder of the bloodstream, are made in the bone marrow. White blood cells help to boost your immune system and fight infection, while platelets act to seal cuts and scrapes, to allow the body to heal.

Blood cells die and are replaced on a regular basis inside the human body, but when somebody suffers from hemolytic anemia, they can’t produce red blood cells quickly enough to replace them as they are destroyed, leading to the condition. Hemolytic anemia leads to all manner of health problems, due to the role red blood cells play in getting oxygen around the body, including fatigue, irregular heartbeat, muscle and joint pain, enlarged heart, and heart failure itself.

Overview

Hemolytic anemia is one subset of the larger condition of anemia, which is described as blood which has a lower than average red blood cell count. In certain cases, anemia is caused by the blood having a smaller amount of hemoglobin (iron rich protein which is what helps carry oxygen around the body) in it, rather than any lack of red blood cells in particular

There are three causes for anemia: blood loss, a lack of red blood cells, or destruction of those red blood cells. Hemolytic anemia is caused by red blood cells being destroyed before their natural lifecycle is up, something that can be caused by a huge number of different factors. These causes can either be inherited (coming from somewhere in the genes which combined to make you), or acquired (developed sometime during your life).

Treatment

Blood Transfusions

Blood transfusions have been used to treat a number of afflictions over the years, and hemolytic anemia is one of them, though only in a severe case.

Medicines

There are various types of medicine which can be used to help alleviate hemolytic anemia, although which medicine works for you will depend on the type of hemolytic anemia, the severity of it, and other factors.

Plasmapheresis

Plasmapheresis is a procedure where blood is extracted from someone with hemolytic anemia, the antibodies are removed from it via the removal of the plasma, and then the blood is re-injected into the body.

Bone marrow transplant

Surgery for a bone marrow transplant is used in extreme cases of hemolytic anemia, where someone has their bone marrow replaced or integrated with somebody else’s, in order to give the patient a new source of blood and red and white blood cells.

 

Image courtesy of [bluebay] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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