Hemolytic anemia

Am Fam Physician. 2004 Jun 1;69(11):2599-606.


Hemolysis presents as acute or chronic anemia, reticulocytosis, or jaundice. The diagnosis is established by reticulocytosis, increased unconjugated bilirubin and lactate dehydrogenase, decreased haptoglobin, and peripheral blood smear findings. Premature destruction of erythrocytes occurs intravascularly or extravascularly. The etiologies of hemolysis often are categorized as acquired or hereditary. Common acquired causes of hemolytic anemia are autoimmunity, microangiopathy, and infection. Immune-mediated hemolysis, caused by antierythrocyte antibodies, can be secondary to malignancies, autoimmune disorders, drugs, and transfusion reactions. Microangiopathic hemolytic anemia occurs when the red cell membrane is damaged in circulation, leading to intravascular hemolysis and the appearance of schistocytes. Infectious agents such as malaria and babesiosis invade red blood cells. Disorders of red blood cell enzymes, membranes, and hemoglobin cause hereditary hemolytic anemias. Glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency leads to hemolysis in the presence of oxidative stress. Hereditary spherocytosis is characterized by spherocytes, a family history, and a negative direct antiglobulin test. Sickle cell anemia and thalassemia are hemoglobinopathies characterized by chronic hemolysis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Anemia, Hemolytic* / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Hemolytic* / physiopathology
  • Anemia, Hemolytic* / therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • Communicable Diseases / physiopathology
  • Hemoglobinopathies / physiopathology
  • Hemolysis
  • Humans
  • Physical Examination