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Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia

(Hemolytic Anemia)


Anemia is a low level of healthy red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Low levels of RBCs make it hard to get enough oxygen throughout the body.

In autoimmune hemolytic anemia, RBCs are being destroyed. It can be a serious, fatal condition that needs medical care.

Red Blood Cells.

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Autoimmune hemolytic anemia is caused by a problem with the immune system. The immune system starts making antibodies that attack red blood cells. Medicine or other illnesses may cause this change in the immune system.

Risk Factors

The risk of autoimmune hemolytic anemia may be higher in those who have:


A person with this health problem may have:

  • Dark brown urine (pee)
  • Yellow or pale skin
  • Muscle pains
  • Headache
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loose stools (poop)
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast heartbeats


The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Anemia may be suspected based on symptoms. A blood test will confirm low levels of RBCs. There are different types of anemia. Other tests will confirm the type.


The goal of treatment is to stop the RBCs from being destroyed. Mild cases of anemia may not need treatment. They may get better on their own. Any health problem causing the anemia will be treated. Medicines that cause the anemia may be stopped. Other treatments include:

  • Medicine to slow or stop the immune system from attacking RBCs.
  • A blood transfusion to replace RBCs. This helps for a short time and is not a cure.
  • If the anemia causes the spleen to be enlarged, it may need to be removed. The spleen is a small organ near the stomach. It helps clear out old and damaged RBCs.


Autoimmune hemolytic anemia cannot be prevented.





  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/autoimmune-hemolytic-anemia.
  • Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/hematology-and-oncology/anemias-caused-by-hemolysis/autoimmune-hemolytic-anemia.
  • Hill A, Hill QA. Autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Hematology Am Soc Hematol Educ Program. 2018 Nov 30;2018(1):382-389.


  • Marcin Chwistek, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.