What are red blood cells

Signs of anemia due to the premature breakdown of red blood cells (haemolytic anemia)

The diseased, immature red blood cells often disintegrate directly in the bone marrow. If they get into the bloodstream, they are broken down prematurely and increasingly by the spleen, an organ in the left upper abdomen. However, if too few functioning red blood cells circulate in the body, anemia occurs and, as a result, a reduced concentration of the red blood pigment (hemoglobin). This is responsible for the transport of oxygen in the body. In anemia, there is therefore an insufficient supply of oxygen to all organs.

As a result, many organs such as the heart and lungs try to fight against this undersupply, which in the long term leads to a general state of exhaustion in the patient. Due to the excessive breakdown of the red blood cells, there are also more breakdown products. These breakdown products (including bilirubin) can clump together in the gallbladder and form gallstones that later get stuck in the bile ducts. This can cause severe pain in the right upper abdomen. The gallstones can also build up bile and deposit yellow-colored blood breakdown products on other organs in the body.

Typical signs of anemia due to the increased breakdown of red blood cells are:

  • increasing pallor
  • a headache
  • quick fatigue
  • Unwillingness to drink and failure to thrive in infants
  • Shortness of breath during physical exertion
  • Gallstones
  • Yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes: jaundice (jaundice)
  • increasing enlargement of the spleen (splenomegaly)

The severity of these health problems is within the individual sub-forms (see "Forms of disease") differently pronounced: In some patients there is only a slight anemia, usually not requiring a transfusion. Others have to be treated with blood transfusions immediately after birth and regularly in childhood. In these more severe forms, the anemia in childhood is often so severe It is pronounced that physical development and performance are considerably restricted, and the affected children then show growth retardation.

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