Dr. Jack Goldberg, a specialist of blood and blood diseases, explains how destruction of red blood cells by the body’s immune system can lead to a condition called intravascular hemolysis.
What you should know about hemolysis
- Hemolysis is the destruction of red blood cells by complement , part of the body’s own defense system
- In PNH , hemolysis is always happening
- Ongoing hemolysis is the root cause of the signs, symptoms, and serious health problems of PNH
- A simple blood test for LDH measures the level of your hemolysis
- Reducing hemolysis is key to managing PNH
PNH is just like an iceberg
What you can’t see or feel can hurt you the most
You cannot always see or feel hemolysis, which makes it tough to discover. Left unmanaged, hemolysis can make you feel very tired and weak. It can also lead to signs and symptoms like:
- Impaired health-related quality of life
- Trouble swallowing
- Stomach pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dark-colored urine
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
Why is hemolysis so bad?
When red blood cells burst during hemolysis, they release hemoglobin . Hemoglobin is good for the body when it’s inside your red blood cells. When it’s outside, it is very dangerous and can harm your body in many ways.
Even if you can’t see or feel hemolysis, you can still have serious health problems. These health problems can include:
- Kidney failure
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Damage to your liver, brain, and lungs
In this way, PNH is just like an iceberg—what you can’t see or feel can hurt you the most.
Is there a test for hemolysis?
Your doctor can test for hemolysis through a simple blood test for lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) . LDH is an enzyme found inside red blood cells. If you have high levels of LDH in your bloodstream, it means a lot of your red blood cells have been destroyed.
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