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Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is a type of anemia in which the body's immune system attacks red blood cells as if they were foreign substances. It is a rare disorder that can occur at any age.

Symptoms

Some people may have no symptoms. Others have symptoms similar to other types of anemia. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dark urine

Causes

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is caused by the malfunction of the immune system which mistakes red blood cells as foreign substances. In about half of the cases, the underlying mechanism is unknown. This type is called idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia. In other types, the disorder is caused by medication or other diseases.

Treatment

The first choice of treatment is usually a corticosteroid drug such as prednisone. For people who do not respond to corticosteroids, a surgery called splenectomy (removal of the spleen) may be considered. If a person does not respond to corticosteroids and splenectomy, immunosuppressive drugs such as cyclophosphamide may be used.