Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

A virus infection can potentially lead to other affecting an individual’s health. Among some of the less common symptoms of mono are the inflammation of the heart, swollen tonsils or obstructed breathing, complications of the nervous system, and autoimmune hemolytic anemia.

What is Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia?

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is a condition in which the immune system mistakenly identifies an individual’s healthy red blood cells for foreign and harmful agents.

This results in the immune system’s attack of the red blood cell, causing them to disintegrate faster than they can be replaced by the bone marrow. This process, which may follow a mononucleosis infection, is also referred to as hemolysis, or the breaking up of red blood cells.

Signs and Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia

If you have recently been infected with mono, knowing the symptoms of hemolytic anemia can signal some early warning signs and aid in early detection of the condition.

Experiencing any of the following symptoms could indicate the development of autoimmune hemolytic anemia:

  • urine that is dark brown in color
  • jaundice or yellow skin
  • pale skin
  • muscle pains
  • headaches
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • weakness or fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid heartbeat
  • enlarged spleen

If you experience any of the above symptoms, contact your doctor or health care provider immediately.

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia that persists for several months can cause an enlargement of the spleen, an organ located below the rib cage that functions to filter out and store damaged red blood cells. This swelling may result in a sense of fullness in the abdominal region.

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia may also lead to heart complications.


The first step toward diagnosis of autoimmune hemolytic anemia involves a visit to your health care provider. Your doctor will ask you questions regarding symptoms, medications, and medical history and perform a physical exam. Your doctor may also refer you to a hematologist for further analysis.

The testing procedures involved in the diagnosis of this type of anemia involves both blood work as well as a urine analysis. If an increased number of immature red blood cells (reticulocytes) is present, this may be a sign of hemolytic anemia since blood cells are being destroyed before they reach full maturity.

Other indicators of hemolytic anemia that may be found through blood tests include the presence of certain antibodies attached to red blood cells, and a decreased amount of the protein haptoglobin.

Treatment of Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

In cases where symptoms of autoimmune hemolytic anemia are mild, or when the destruction of red blood cells seems to be decreasing on its own, individuals may not require any medical treatment.

However, in cases when anemia is caused by an underlying source, such as mononucleosis or viral medications used to treat mono, treatment will usually involve dealing with this underlying cause. Certain medications that may cause hemolytic anemia may be avoided.

Treatment may also involve taking immune system suppressant drugs such as steroids or gamma globulin to help suppress the system’s attack of red blood cells.

In severe cases where the spleen has been enlarged, removal of the organ may be necessary. A blood transfusion may be necessary if the blood becomes too anemic.

Talk to your doctor or health care provider for information on the treatment option for autoimmune hemolytic anemia that is best for you.


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