Hereditary spherocytosis (patient information)
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(Hereditary spherocytosis) On the Web
Synonyms and Keywords: Congenital spherocytic anemia, Spherocytosis
Hereditary spherocytosis is a disorder of the surface layer (membrane) of red blood cells. It leads to red blood cells that are shaped like spheres, and premature breakdown of red blood cells (hemolytic anemia).
What are the symptoms of Hereditary spherocytosis?
- Other symptoms may include:
What causes Hereditary spherocytosis?
- This disorder is caused by a defective gene. The defect results in an abnormal red blood cell membrane. The affected cells have a smaller surface area for their volume than normal red blood cells, and can break open easily.
- The anemia can vary from mild to severe. In severe cases the disorder may be found in early childhood. In mild cases it may go unnoticed until adulthood.
Who is at highest risk?
- Having a family history of spherocytosis increases the risk for this disorder.
- This disorder is most common in people of northern European descent, but it has been found in all races.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Call your health care provider for an appointment if your symptoms get worse, do not improve with treatment, or if you develop new symptoms.
- In most cases, the spleen is enlarged.
- Laboratory tests can help diagnose this condition. Tests may include:
- Surgery to remove the spleen (splenectomy) cures the anemia but doesn't correct the abnormal cell shape.
- Families with a history of spherocytosis should have their children screened for this disorder.
- Children should wait until age 5 to have splenectomy because of the infection risk. In mild cases discovered in adults, it may not be necessary to remove the spleen.
- Children and adults should be given a pneumococcal vaccine before spleen removal surgery, and also may receive folic acid supplements. Additional vaccines may be indicated based on the patient’s history.
Where to find medical care for Hereditary spherocytosis?
This is an inherited disorder and may not be preventable. Being aware of your risk, such as a family history of the disorder, may help you get diagnosed and treated early.
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
This outcome is usually good with treatment. After the spleen is removed, the life span of the red blood cell returns to normal.
- Much lower red blood cell production (aplastic crisis) caused by a viral infection, which can make anemia worse