Hemolytic crisis occurs when large numbers of red blood cells are destroyed over a short time. The loss of red blood cells occurs much faster than the body can produce new red blood cells.
Causes of hemolysis include:
- A lack of certain proteins inside red blood cells
- Autoimmune diseases
- Certain infections
- Defects in the hemoglobin molecules inside red blood cells
- Defects of the proteins that make up the internal framework of red blood cells
- Side effects of certain medicines
- Reactions to blood transfusions
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if you have:
- Symptoms of anemia, including pale skin or fatigue, especially if these symptoms get worse
- Urine that is red, red-brown, or brown (tea-colored)
What to Expect at Your Office Visit
Emergency treatment may be necessary. This may include a hospital stay, oxygen, blood transfusions, and other treatments.
When your condition is stable, your provider will perform a physical examination and ask about your medical history and symptoms. The physical exam may show swelling of the spleen (splenomegaly).
Tests that may be done include:
- Blood chemistry panel
- Complete blood count (CBC)
- Coombs test
- Lactate dehydrogenase
Treatment depends on the cause of hemolysis.
Hemolysis - acute
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.
Review Date 1/25/2022
Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.