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Hemolytic crisis occurs when large numbers of red blood cells are destroyed over a short time. The loss of red blood cells occurs much faster than the body can produce new red blood cells.
Hemolysis - acute
During a hemolytic crisis, the body cannot make enough red blood cells to replace those that are destroyed. This causes
and often severe .
The part of red blood cells that carries oxygen (hemoglobin) is released into the bloodstream. This can lead to kidney damage.
Causes of hemolysis include:
- A lack of certain proteins inside red blood cells
- Autoimmune diseases
- Certain infections
- Defects in the hemoglobin molecules inside red blood cells
- Defects of the proteins that make up the internal framework of red blood cells
- Side effects of certain medicines
- Reactions to blood transfusions
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have:
- Symptoms of anemia, including pale skin or fatigue, especially if these symptoms get worse
- Urine that is red, red-brown, or brown (tea-colored)
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Emergency treatment may be necessary. This may include a hospital stay, oxygen, blood transfusions, and other treatments.
When your condition is stable, your provider will perform a
and ask about your medical history and symptoms. The physical exam may show swelling of the spleen ().
Tests that may be done include:
Treatment depends on the cause of hemolysis.
Ezenkwele UA. Emergency management of red blood cell disorders. In: Adams JG, ed. Emergency Medicine: Clinical Essentials. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 204.
Gallagher PG. Hemolytic anemias: red blood cell membrane and metabolic defects. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 161.
- Last reviewed on 2/12/2016
- Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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