Hemolytic Anaemia : Causes and Symptoms

October 16, 2023

Hemolytic Anaemia : Causes and Symptoms
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Hemolytic Anaemia

Hemolytic anaemia refers to a type of anaemia whereby there is enhanced breakdown of red blood cells, thus lowering the lifespan of the red blood cells. However, there are many causes for this, including genetic defects in RBC components, infections, autoimmune diseases, prescribed drugs, and external factors such as environmental pollutants or physical injuries.

Symptoms that include tiredness, paleness, jaundice (yellow skin and yellow eyes), and rapid heartbeat all stem from the quick rupture of red blood cells. In most cases, treatment is dependent on the underlying cause and involves the use of drugs, blood transfusion, or, more rarely, the surgical removal of the spleen. Proper treatment of hemolytic anaemia involves identifying and managing the root cause.

Table of Contents

  • Hemolytic anaemia
  • Signs of hemolytic anaemia
  • Diagnosis of hemolytic anaemia
  • Causes of hemolytic anaemia
  • Treatment for Hemolytic anaemia
  • Conclusion
  • Frequently asked questions

Signs of Hemolytic anaemia


Sometimes a feeling of being extremely sleepy or weak is caused by a low content of blood able to transport oxygen to tissues.


Pale complexion is caused by the lower counts of blood cells.


Bilirubin is a waste product of red blood cell breakdown. Due to excessive red blood cell breakdown, the body might not be able to process it, hence leading to yellowing of the skin and eyes.

Dark urine

The presence of excess bilirubin in the urine causes a dark discolouration that is due to the increase in the breakdown of red blood cells.

Enlarged spleen

The enlargement of the spleen is an indication that it works towards the removal of damaged red blood cells from the general circulation.

Rapid heart rate

The high rate of the heart is a body’s attempt to increase its ability to carry more oxygen.

Shortness of breath

In the extreme form, a patient can suffer from shortness of breath, especially during exertion, where inadequate oxygen transportation might be involved.

In case you have these symptoms or know someone having them, you should seek for medical care and comprehensive evaluation leading to proper treatment.

Diagnosis of hemolytic anaemia

A physical examination, laboratory testing, and occasionally radiology for imaging studies are used to diagnose hemolytic anaemia.  A healthcare provider may perform the following to diagnose hemolytic anaemia:

Medical history and physical examination

Assessment of the patient’s medical history as well as taking a thorough physical examination, can identify the causes of the anaemia in most instances.

Blood tests

They include, possibly, a complete blood count (CBC) for assessing the levels/counts of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets, and a peripheral blood smear examination of red blood cells to find out any abnormalities. The rate of red cell formation and degradation may be ascertained with the help of additional tests like the reticulocyte count, serum haptoglobin, and LDH level.

Bilirubin levels

The presence of a high level of bilirubin in the blood can mean that red blood cells are broken more than normal, hence releasing hemoglobin, which is converted to bilirubin.

Coombs test: This assay is useful for detecting antibodies or complement proteins that might result in the breakdown of erythrocytes.

Additional tests

Other tests could be conducted, depending on the suspected cause, such as a blood smear to observe the morphology and features of the red blood cells, genetic testing or tests that would point out autoimmune abnormalities or underlying infections.

Imaging studies

It is also possible that imaging studies like sonography or CT scans might be carried out to determine the condition of the spleen as well as other sources of hemolysis.

Once a particular cause related to hemolytic anaemia is recognised, proper measures can be taken to handle the anaemia and correct the underlying cause. A person should seek medical advice from a healthcare practitioner for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Causes of hemolytic anaemia

hemolytic anaemia cause scan be categorised into several key factors, including:

  1. Inherited Conditions: Genetic mutations lead to abnormalities that may cause hemolytic anaemia in red blood cell structure or function. Among others are sickle cell anaemia, thalassemia, and hereditary spherocytosis.
  2. Autoimmune Disorders: Autoimmune disorders, in which the immune system attacks the red blood cells, may lead to hemolytic anaemia. Autoimmune hemolytic anaemia(AIHA) is one example.
  3. Infections: There are some infections that can result in hemolytic anaemia, such as malaria or bacterial infections like Clostridium perfringens, which may destroy the red blood cells.
  4. Medications: Some antibiotics and anti-malarial drugs can cause hemolytic anaemia among susceptible individuals.
  5. Toxins and Chemicals: Hemolytic anaemia is caused by the destruction of red blood cells as a result of exposure to various toxins, chemicals, or venoms, such as snake bites.
  6. Enzyme Deficiencies: RBCs are vulnerable to hemolysis, which only appears in response to specific triggers, when certain enzymes, such as glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency, are absent.
  7. Haemoglobin Abnormalities: In addition, hemolytic anaemia can also result from disorders affecting the structure or function of hemoglobin, such as unstable hemoglobinopathies and paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH).
  8. Mechanical Trauma: Physical causes could include heart valve problems, thrombotic microangiopathies, microangiopathic hemolytic anaemia, or mechanical damage to red blood cells.
  9. Alloimmune Reactions: Hemolytic anaemia may develop if a person’s immune system responds to blood transfusion or in pregnancy (for example, hemolytic disease of the newborn or Rh disease).
  10. Dietary Factors: In most cases, a person with G6PD deficiency may experience hemolysis when they ingest certain dietary factors, such as fava beans.

Treatment for Hemolytic anaemia

The management of hemolytic anaemia is contingent upon the underlying etiology and grade of the illness. Here are some common treatment approaches for hemolytic anaemia:

  • Blood Transfusions: Severe hemolytic anaemias, for example, may cause transfusion where red blood cells are replaced, which in turn improves oxygen transportation within the system.
  • Splenectomy: Splencotomy may be carried out if it has been proven that the spleen is causing death in red blood cells.
  • Antibiotics: If the hemolytic anaemia is due to bacterial infections, appropriate antibiotics are administered to treat the infection and stop destroying the RBCs.
  • Avoiding Triggers: Those with enzyme deficiencies such as G6PD may experience hemolytic episodes due to triggers such as infections, certain medications, and fava beans. 
  • Medication Adjustment: Depending on whether a medication causes hemolysis or not, a medical professional may occasionally ask a patient to stop taking it or give it another look.
  • Folic Acid Supplementation: In some cases, folic acid supplements can be prescribed as an adjunct therapy, which helps the body develop these new red blood cells more efficiently.
  • Plasma Exchange Therapy: Plasma exchange is another treatment option for severe hemolytic anaemia caused by autoantibodies and other factors.

However, in the case of hemolytic anaemia, one should always seek assistance from a credible healthcare professional whose professional advice will lead to the right diagnosis and subsequent management of this condition.


Hemolytic anaemia is the abnormally high rate at which red blood cells cease to exist. hemolytic anaemia caused due to various reasons, such as genetic disorders, auto-immune diseases, infections, drug toxicity, enzyme deficiencies, etc. These symptoms include fatigue, pallor, jaundice, and tachycardia, which highlight how serious this illness is. It is important to diagnose on time using physical examinations, blood tests, and imaging studies for proper management. Depending on the nature and severity of the disease, treatment options may include corticosteroids and immunosuppressants, blood transfusion, splenectomy, or plasma exchange therapy.  For an accurate diagnosis and management of the condition, a thorough medical diagnosis and treatment plan focused on treating the underlying cause of hemolytic anaemia, as well as relieving symptoms, are required. 

Frequently asked questions

1. What is the main cause of hemolytic anaemia?

However, the main causes of hemolytic anaemia can differ depending on the situation and may include such things as inherent conditions, autoimmune diseases, infections, medications, toxins, and so on.

2. What are the signs of hemolytic anaemia?

Fatigue, pallor, jaundice, dark urine, enlarged spleen, tachycardia, and dyspnea are the symptoms of hemolytic anaemia.

3. What infections cause hemolytic anaemia?

Malarial infection, typhoid fever, and bacterial infections such as Clostridium perfringens may be the reasons for some of the hemolytic anaemias.

Disclaimer: We recommend consulting a Doctor before taking any action based on the above shared information.


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