Hemolytic anemia is a form of anemia due to hemolysis, the abnormal breakdown of red blood cells (RBCs), either in the blood vessels (intravascular hemolysis) or elsewhere in the human body (extravascular). This most commonly occurs within the spleen, but also can occur in the reticuloendothelial system or mechanically (prosthetic valve damage). Hemolytic anemia accounts for 5% of all existing anemias. It has numerous possible consequences, ranging from general symptoms to life-threatening systemic effects. The general classification of hemolytic anemia is either intrinsic or extrinsic. Treatment depends on the type and cause of the hemolytic anemia.
Symptoms of hemolytic anemia are similar to other forms of anemia (fatigue and shortness of breath), but in addition, the breakdown of red cells leads to jaundice and increases the risk of particular long-term complications, such as gallstones and pulmonary hypertension.