Health A-Z

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Diagnosis

Your doctor will review your medical history. He or she will ask you to describe your symptoms.

Other questions may include:

  • Do you have close relatives with an inherited form of anemia?

  • What medications do you take?

  • Have you recently had a severe infection?

  • Do you have:

    • an artificial heart valve

    • a synthetic graft in your blood vessels

    • other implants or prostheses

  • Do you have any other medical problems, particularly autoimmune diseases?

During your physical examination, your doctor will look for signs of anemia. These include:

  • Pale skin and fingernails

  • Rapid pulse

  • Heart murmur

  • Enlarged spleen and liver

This exam will be followed by blood tests to:

  • Measure levels of red blood cells

  • Look at the size and shape of red blood cells

  • Measure the hemoglobin level

  • Determine the number of immature red blood cells. The marrow may pour out immature blood cells in an effort to make up for the anemia.

Your doctor may order tests to check for blood in your stool. This identifies anemia that results from blood loss. Other blood tests check for anemia resulting from a lack of iron or certain vitamins in your diet.

Other tests will depend on the suspected cause of your hemolytic anemia.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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