What is autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIHA)?
AIHA is a condition where there is a drop in the number of red blood cells (anemia), due to destruction of red blood cells (hemolysis) by the body’s immune system.
What are the symptoms of AIHA?
- Dark urine
- Pale color (pallor)
- Rapid heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Yellow skin color (jaundice)
What causes AIHA?
AIHA is an acquired disease that occurs when antibodies form against a person’s own red blood cells. In the idiopathic form of this disease (which accounts for one-half of all AIHA) the cause is unknown. It is not inherited, and other children cannot catch it from your child. There are other types of AIHA which result from an underlying disease or medication. In children it is uncommon to find an underlying cause.
How is AIHA diagnosed?
Physical examination reveals an enlarged spleen and liver with pallor and jaundice, but any hemolytic anemia can give rise to this. It is very important to be sure what the underlying cause is and the following tests are helpful:
- Direct and Indirect Coombs test (which looks for antibody)
- Red blood cell count and serum hemoglobin
- Reticulocyte count
- Serum bilirubin levels
- Serum haptoglobin