An auto-immune disease is one where the immune system is tricked into attacking itself through misunderstood or garbled nervous messages. Normally, the immune system produces natural antibodies which attack diseases and other foreign bodies within your system. When an auto-immune disease is present, however, this does not happen. Hemolytic anemia is a disease where the immune system specifically targets red blood cells.
As seen in XpertDox, Autoimmune hemolyticanemia is a condition where the immune system attacks itself and the red blood cells produced by the body, causing them to burst open, with all the attendant damage. The main effect of this disease is the reduction of red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
The main symptom of hemolytic anemia, or the one that people tend to notice first, is the shortness of breath which comes from not having enough oxygen moving around your body, although this is more pronounced in idiopathic versions of the disease. Other symptoms include increasing weakness, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, pale\sallow skin, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting, dark urine, headaches, stomach pains, bloating, and diarrhoea.
Diagnosing hemolytic anemia comes after all the other possible diagnoses for this type of anemia have been ruled out, such as sickle cell anemia, with reference to any underlying issues which may have led to the disease forming.
When a diagnosis has been made, the physicians involved then move to laboratory work to look at the progress of the disease, and get ideas in how to treat it. One positive test, while enough to tell healthcare workers that the disease is present, is not enough to truly determine how that positive test was made – further lab work is needed for this to be figured out. Tests for hemolytic anemia include blood counts, peripheral smears, bilirubin, lactate dehydrogenase, haptoglobin, and urine hemoglobin.
The first treatment for hemolytic anemia is normally steroids, of various kinds. Steroids are used because they can be very useful in creating and boosting red blood cells counts. Since steroids are very dangerous for people’s overall health, using them requires careful oversight to ensure that they are working, and that they are not having any detrimental effects. The course of steroids will be stopped or decreased when the condition goes into remission.
Drugs such as azathioprine and cyclophosphamide act to suppress the immune system, which in the case of hemolytic anemia would work to stop the destruction of red blood cells. If either of the two first choices would not work, some doctors turn to rituximab as a drug which will attack specific proteins which are present in the immune system, thus weakening the disease. Immune suppressing drugs are particularly useful when steroids don’t work, but the patient cannot have surgery.
In some cases, the doctors of the case may recommend surgery as the means of remedying the disease. Removal of the spleen is something that can reverse things, and stop red blood cells from being destroyed. This course of action is normally only recommended if other forms of treatment have failed.