Hemolytic Anemia Symptoms & Causes

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What is hemolytic anemia? 

Hemolytic anemia is a blood disorder that occurs when red blood cells, the part of the blood that helps carry oxygen from the lungs to all the parts of the body, are destroyed faster than the bone marrow can make them. The destruction of red blood cells is called hemolysis.

Types of hemolytic anemia:

Intrinsic (present at birth):

  • Red blood cells are destroyed due to a defect within the red blood cells themselves.
  • Results in red blood cells that do not live as long as normal red blood cells.


  • Red blood cells are healthy when produced but are later destroyed by getting trapped in the spleen. Or they may be destroyed by infection or certain medications.

What causes hemolytic anemia?

Intrinsic hemolytic anemias, such as thalassemia or sickle cell anemia, are inherited, passed from parents to their child through a defective gene. Extrinsic hemolytic anemia can be caused by:


  • Hepatitis
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr virus
  • Typhoid fever (bacterial infection most commonly caused by salmonella)
  • E. coli (bacteria that cause food poisoning)
  • Streptococcus


  • Penicillin
  • Antimalaria medications
  • Sulfa medications
  • Acetaminophen

 Autoimmune disorders:

Leukemia or lymphoma

Various tumors 

What are the symptoms of hemolytic anemia?

The most common symptoms of hemolytic anemia are:

  • pale skin, lips, hands, or paleness under the eyelids
  • jaundice
  • dark color to urine
  • fever
  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • difficulty with physical activity
  • enlargement of the spleen and liver
  • increased heart rate
  • heart murmur
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