Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia: Symptoms & Treatment Guidelines

AHA or Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is a condition wherein the immune mechanism erroneously damages your own RBCs. This condition develops when antibodies which normally shield from viruses and bacteria attach to the RBCs by mistake.

The RBCs have a lifespan of 120 days. Conversely, when antibodies attach to the RBCs mistakenly, they become the target for your immune system.

Your immune mechanism then annihilates the red blood cells before their natural lifespan. Consequently, the body accelerates the manufacture of new RBCs.

Nonetheless, over time it gets very difficult for the body to keep pace with the rate of annihilation. In due course the number of the red blood cells diminishes and there occurs a deficiency, known as anemia. The disorder may develop suddenly or slowly over an interval of time.

Causes And Symptoms Of Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

Possible causes of the condition are:

  • Infections
  • Malignant conditions
  • Certain drugs, chemical agents and toxins.
  • Blood transfusion from a donor with a blood type which is not a match.
  • Idiopathic, when there is no apparent reason.
  • Complication of some other disease may trigger autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
  • Pregnancy (in case the baby’s blood type and mother’s blood type at different).

Common initial manifestations include:

  • Exhaustion and fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Breathlessness
  • Problems with concentration

With time, the symptoms aggravate:

  • Face has a pallor
  • Brittle nails
  • Giddiness when you stand up
  • Sore tongue
  • Difficulty breathing

Treatment Guidelines For Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

You need to assess the level of anemia, the symptoms and advancement of the disorder and start prompt treatment; confer with your health care provider. The disorder may start rapidly and may be very serious, or it may be relatively mild and not require any special treatment regimen.

The underlying disease condition that is the cause of autoimmune hemolytic anemia needs to be effectively managed to successfully treat the symptoms.

  • Iron supplements are prescribed by most doctors; consult your physician to see what would be best for you. These work in very mild cases of autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Alongside, consume loads of iron rich foods to deal with the anemia.
  • Steroids are often prescribed to deal with most symptoms; usually prednisone. If these fail to proffer relief, your health care provider will advise intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG).
  • In case the steroids as well as IVIG fail to work, you may need to have the spleen surgically removed. The spleen is the chief place where the destruction of the red blood cells takes place. Understand the options that you have with your doctor.
  • In case, removal of the spleen too fails to provide respite, you need to be given immunosuppressant drugs to manage the situation. These medications suppress the immune mechanism and prevent the antibodies from destroying the red blood cells. On the other hand; immunosuppressant medications leave you highly susceptible to infections. Hence, your health care provider will weigh the risks and benefits, and decide whether you should be treated with these medications. By and large, drugs such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide and rituximab have been used.
  • In real extreme cases, your doctor will advocate blood transfusion; however, immense caution is necessary, given that, the blood may not be compatible and it may set off greater RBC annihilation.