Hemolysis is the premature destruction of red blood cells. Development of anemia will occur if the activity of the bone marrow is not sufficient to compensate for the loss of red blood cells. The severity of anemia depends on whether the incidence of hemolysis is gradual or sudden and the extent of destruction of erythrocytes. Slight hemolysis may be asymptomatic while anemia can be life threatening in severe hemolysis in presence of angina pectoris and heart-disordered breathing.
The clinical picture reflects the underlying cause of hemolysis. For example, associated with sickle cell anemia is an occlusive pain crisis (severe pain due to occlusion of small blood vessels). There are several causes of anemia and clinical presentation may vary depending on the cause. A series of laboratory tests for the detection of hemolysis are present and special tests indicated to diagnose the cause of hemolysis are also readily available. There are differences in the treatment of various types of anemia.