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Diseases reference index «Hemolytic crisis»

Hemolytic crisis occurs from the rapid destruction of large numbers of red blood cells (hemolysis). The destruction occurs much faster than the body can produce new red blood cells.


A hemolytic crisis causes acute (and often severe) anemia, because the body cannot make enough red blood cells to replace those that are destroyed. The part of red blood cells that carries oxygen (hemoglobin) is released into the bloodstream, which can lead to kidney damage.


There are many causes of hemolysis, including:

  • A lack of certain enzymes 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
  • Medication side effects
  • Reactions to blood transfusions

Many of these conditions can lead to a hemolytic crisis.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

If you have any of the following symptoms, contact your doctor:

  • A decrease in the amount of urine you produce
  • Fatigue, pale skin, or other symptoms of anemia, especially if these symptoms get worse
  • Urine that looks 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 doctor will perform a physical examination and ask questions, such as:

  • When did you first notice symptoms?
  • What symptoms did you notice?
  • Do you have a history of hemolytic anemia, G6PD deficiency, or a kidney disorder?
  • Does anyone in your family have a history of hemolytic anemia or abnormal hemoglobin proteins?

The physical examination may occasionally show swelling of the spleen (splenomegaly).

Tests may include:

  • Blood chemistry panel
  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Coombs' test
  • Kidney or abdominal CT scan
  • Kidney or abdominal ultrasound
  • Serum free hemoglobin
  • Urine free hemoglobin

Alternative Names

Hemolysis - acute

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