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Antibodies
Antibodies


Definition:

Idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia is a drop in the number of red blood cells due to increased destruction by the body's defense (immune) system.



Alternative Names:

Autoimmune hemolytic anemia; Anemia - idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia is an acquired disease that occurs when antibodies form against a person's own red blood cells. In the idiopathic form of this disease, the cause is unknown.

Idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia accounts for one-half of all immune hemolytic anemias.

There are other types of immune hemolytic anemias in which the cause may result from an underlying disease or medication. The disease may start quickly and be very serious.

Risk factors are not known.



Signs and tests:

Treatment:

The first therapy tried is usually a steroid medication, such as prednisone. If steroid medications do not improve the condition, removal of the spleen (splenectomy ) may be considered.

Immunosuppressive therapy is usually given if the person does not respond to steroids and splenectomy. Medications such as Azathioprine (Imuran), cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan), and rituximab (Rituxan) have been used.

Blood transfusions are given with caution, because of the potential that blood may not be compatible and may cause further hemolysis.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

Adults may have chronic, relapsing disease, but in children the anemia is usually short-lived.



Complications:
  • Infection (from treatment)
  • Severe anemia


Calling your health care provider:

Call your health care provider if you notice symptoms of anemia.



Prevention:

There is no known prevention for idiopathic autoimmune hemolytic anemia, because the cause is unknown.



References:

Schwartz RS. Autoimmune and intravascular hemolytic anemias. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 164.




Review Date: 11/23/2008
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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