Symptoms Of Acquired Hemolytic Anemia

October 1, 2023

Sometimes, a headache is just a headache, but what if it’s something more serious? All too often, dire medical conditions begin to manifest with small, seemingly-harmless symptoms. Acquired hemolytic anemia, a condition that causes the untimely destruction and removal of red blood cells from the bloodstream, may begin with innocuous symptoms. The result of some other disease or infection acquired hemolytic anemia shares many symptoms with more well-known forms of anemia, but may also present symptoms that seem strangely out of place for a condition that primarily affects blood cells. Learn more about these symptoms now.

Symptoms Shared With Other Forms Of Anemia

Initially, acquired hemolytic anemia may be difficult to definitively diagnose, as it has many symptoms shared with other forms of anemia. As will all other forms of anemia, those suffering from acquired hemolytic anemia will feel general, lasting fatigue. This tiredness is a direct result of dying red blood cells, as a low red blood cell count means the body does not have enough cells to carry the required oxygen to the various organs and tissues. This low red blood cell count may also manifest as dizziness, headaches, or shortness of breath, which are all symptoms shared across all types of anemia. Additionally, a lack of red blood cells can lead to more prominent symptoms, including chest pains, pale skin, and a noticeable coldness in the extremities as the body struggles to deliver enough oxygen to all of the body’s systems.

Heart Murmurs

A more serious, but unseen, symptom of acquired hemolytic anemia is the development of a heart murmur. This condition is generally described as an unusual sound, ranging from faint to loud, between regular heartbeats. Medical professionals have reported these murmurs as a swishing or whooshing sound. Depending on the loudness of the murmur, it may be challenging to detect. For those suffering from acquired hemolytic anemia, heart murmurs occur because of the absence of red blood cells. Because red blood cells carry much-needed oxygen to the organs and tissue of the body, a lack of these blood cells forces the heart to work harder to move oxygenated blood to throughout the body, and thus, causes the murmur.

Enlarged Spleen And Liver

Another worrying symptom of acquired hemolytic anemia is the presence of an enlarged spleen and liver. The spleen, the organ that filters out aged or damaged blood cells and fights infections, may become enlarged due to the stress put on this organ by the death of red blood cells. The liver, which breaks down hemoglobin and excretes bilirubin, may become inflamed or enlarged as bilirubin concentrations in the blood increase. Known as pre-hepatic bilirubin, conditions such as acquired hemolytic anemia may cause the excessive deterioration and death of red blood cells before they reach the liver, resulting in an upsurge in bilirubin level. This compound, known as unconjugated bilirubin, is toxic unless filtered by the liver. The liver can then become enlarged as it attempts to process a disproportionate amount of this unconjugated bilirubin. While visually undetectable, the enlargement of one or both of these organs can cause significant abdominal pain, which should prompt a visit to a healthcare professional.


Also known as icterus, jaundice is a noticeable and easily recognized symptom of both acquired hemolytic anemia and the enlarged liver associated with unusually high bilirubin. Jaundice is typically described as a noticeable yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes. This condition occurs when red blood cells die off and release bilirubin into the bloodstream. This compound, normally excreted in manageable levels from the liver, builds to excessive levels as more red blood cells die prematurely, prompting this distinct change in physical appearance. The liver has not processed the unconjugated bilirubin, and as such is toxic to the body. Surplus bilirubin may also lead to a discoloration of the urine.

Dark Urine

A significant but somewhat innocuous symptom of acquired hemolytic anemia is dark urine. Intrinsically linked to an enlarged or inflamed liver and jaundice that signals this condition, dark-colored urine is an indicator of the body’s natural filtration system is not functioning properly. The dark coloration is a result of excess bilirubin, a byproduct of the breakdown of red blood cells. This bilirubin is generally yellow or brown in coloration, and under normal conditions is the compound that gives fecal matter its brown pigment. However, as bilirubin levels in the bloodstream rise in conjunction with the destruction of red blood cells, the surplus bilirubin cannot be filtered properly by the liver and kidneys, and so colors the urine as it leaves the body.

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