What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia?

The signs and symptoms of hemolytic anemia will depend on the type and severity of the disease.

People who have mild hemolytic anemia often have no signs or symptoms. More severe hemolytic anemia may cause many signs and symptoms, and they may be serious.

Many of the signs and symptoms of hemolytic anemia apply to all types of anemia.

Signs and Symptoms of Anemia

The most common symptom of all types of anemia is fatigue (tiredness). Fatigue occurs because your body doesn't have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen to its various parts.

A low red blood cell count also can cause shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, coldness in your hands and feet, pale skin, and chest pain.

A lack of red blood cells also means that your heart has to work harder to move oxygen-rich blood through your body. This can lead to arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats), a heart murmur, an enlarged heart, or even heart failure.

Signs and Symptoms of Hemolytic Anemia


Jaundice refers to a yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes. When red blood cells die, they release hemoglobin into the bloodstream.

The hemoglobin is broken down into a compound called bilirubin, which gives the skin and eyes a yellowish color. Bilirubin also causes urine to be dark yellow or brown.

Pain in the Upper Abdomen

Gallstones or an enlarged spleen may cause pain in the upper abdomen. High levels of bilirubin and cholesterol (from the breakdown of red blood cells) can form into stones in the gallbladder. These stones can be painful.

The spleen is an organ in the abdomen that helps fight infection and filters out old or damaged blood cells. In hemolytic anemia, the spleen may be enlarged, which can be painful.

Leg Ulcers and Pain

In people who have sickle cell anemia, the sickle-shaped cells can clog small blood vessels and block blood flow. This can cause leg sores and pain throughout the body.

A Severe Reaction to a Blood Transfusion

You may develop hemolytic anemia due to a blood transfusion. This can happen if the transfused blood is a different blood type than your blood.

Signs and symptoms of a severe reaction to a transfusion include fever, chills, low blood pressure, and shock. (Shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs if the body isn't getting enough blood flow.)



Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health.