Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

What is autoimmune hemolytic anemia?

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA) is a rare red blood cell disorder that occurs when antibodies directed against a person’s own red blood cells cause them to burst, leading to insufficient concentration in the blood. When this happens, the lifetime of red blood cells decrease from 100 to 120 days to just a few days in serious cases. Intracellular components of red blood cells are then released into the circulating blood and tissue, causing characteristic symptoms.

The causes of autoimmune hemolytic anemia are poorly understood. It may be a primary disorder or secondary to an underlying illness, such as Epstein-Barr Virus, lymphoma, lupus, immunodeficiency disorders, rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis. AIHA may also be a component of Evans Syndrome, an autoimmune disease that affects more than one blood cell line.

How we care for AIHA

Children with autoimmune hemolytic anemia receive treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center through our Rare Anemias and Iron Disorders Program. Our patients have access to the broadest set of blood disorder expertise and pediatric subspecialties available.

The breadth of our expertise allows us to assemble a team of specialists to meet the specific needs of the patient. Our treatment teams are led by a pediatric hematologist who specializes in inherited iron deficiency disorders, as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants who specialize in treating anemias, hemoglobinopathies, and red blood cell disorders.