Acute hemolytic crisis: What's it, causes, symptoms, diagnostics, treatment, prevention

Hemolytic crisis; Hemolysis – acute

What is a hemolytic crisis?

Hemolytic crisis occurs, when a large number of red blood cells are destroyed in a short time. RBC loss occurs much faster, how the body can produce new red blood cells.

Hemolytic crisis is a disease, characterized by the sudden destruction of red blood cells (gemolizom) body, which leads to a rapid decrease in the number of red blood cells in circulation. This condition can lead to severe anemia, which in some cases can be life-threatening.

Causes of a hemolytic crisis

Hemolytic crisis can be caused by various factors, including:

  • Infection, such as malaria, typhoid and bacterial infections.
  • Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Reactions to a blood transfusion
  • Medicines, such as penicillin, cephalosporins and quinine.
  • Toxins, like snake venom, heavy metals and chemicals.
  • Hereditary diseases, such as sickle cell anemia and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency (G6FD)

Symptoms of a hemolytic crisis

Symptoms of a hemolytic crisis may vary depending on the underlying cause of the disorder.. Nonetheless, some common symptoms include:

  • Pale skin and lips
  • Fatigue
  • Breathlessness
  • Cardiopalmus
  • Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
  • Dark urine
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Splenomegaly

When to contact a healthcare professional

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, especially if you have a history of anemia or hemolytic crisis, you should contact your doctor immediately. Hemolytic crisis can be life-threatening, and prompt treatment is needed to prevent complications.

Questions, that your doctor may ask

Your doctor may ask you some of the following questions, to determine the cause of your hemolytic crisis:

  • What symptoms are you experiencing??
  • When did you get symptoms?
  • Have you had a history of anemia or other blood disorders?
  • Have you recently had a blood transfusion??
  • Have you been exposed to any toxins or chemicals?
  • What medications are you currently taking?
  • Do you have other diseases?

Diagnosis of a hemolytic crisis

To diagnose a hemolytic crisis, the doctor may perform some of the following tests:

  • General blood analysis, to check the red blood cell count and hemoglobin level.
  • Blood smear to study the shape and size of red blood cells.
  • Bilirubin test to detect jaundice
  • Direct and indirect Coombs test for detecting autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
  • Hemoglobin electrophoresis to detect genetic disorders of hemoglobin
  • Urinalysis to check hemoglobin content in urine.

Treatment of a hemolytic crisis

Treatment for a hemolytic crisis depends on the underlying cause of the condition.. In some cases, the condition may go away on its own without treatment.. However, in more severe cases, treatment may include:

  • Blood transfusion to replace destroyed red blood cells.
  • Corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and suppress the immune system in cases of autoimmune hemolytic anemia.
  • Plasma exchange to remove antibodies, attacking red blood cells.
  • Immunosuppressants to suppress the immune system in autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  • Surgery to remove the spleen in cases of severe hemolytic anemia due to an enlarged spleen.

Home treatment for hemolytic crisis

While you are being treated for a hemolytic crisis, there are several steps, things you can do at home, to manage symptoms and speed up recovery:

  • Get plenty of rest and avoid strenuous exercise.
  • Eat a healthy diet, rich in iron and other nutrients, that promote the production of red blood cells.
  • Stay hydrated, drink plenty of water and other fluids.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking, as it can aggravate anemia and damage red blood cells.
  • Take any medication, prescribed by a doctor.
  • See your doctor regularly, to monitor your condition and adjust treatment as needed.

Prevention of hemolytic crisis

Although some causes of hemolytic crisis, such as hereditary diseases, impossible to prevent, there are several steps, you can take, to reduce the risk of developing this condition:

  • Avoid exposure to toxins and chemicals.
  • Take your medications as directed and avoid drugs, which can cause hemolytic anemia.
  • Avoid blood transfusions unless absolutely necessary
  • Get vaccinated against infections, which can cause hemolytic anemia, such as malaria and typhoid.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise.
  • Seek immediate medical attention for any symptoms of anemia or other blood disorders.


Hemolytic crisis is a serious illness, which can be caused by various factors and can lead to severe anemia and other complications. If you experience any symptoms of a hemolytic crisis, immediately seek medical advice. Your doctor may perform various tests, to diagnose the underlying cause of the condition and recommend appropriate treatment. While you are healing, take action at home, to manage symptoms and speed up recovery. By following a healthy lifestyle and taking steps to prevent this condition, you can reduce your risk of a hemolytic crisis.

Used sources and literature

Gallagher PG. Hemolytic anemias: red blood cell membrane and metabolic defects. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 152.

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