Hemolysis is the destruction of red blood cells and the release of their contents into the surrounding fluid. Typically, the lifespan of a red blood cell is 120 days. When the cells die, they are removed from the bloodstream by the spleen and replaced with new red blood cells. However, if hemolysis occurs, red blood cells are destroyed at a faster rate than the body can replace them. This can cause a red blood cell imbalance or hemolytic anemia. There are two types of hemolytic anemia: intrinsic and extrinsic.
Intrinsic hemolytic anemia is often inherited and develops due to a defect in the red blood cells such as sickle cell anemia or thalassemia, problematic membrane production (such as hereditary spherocytosis) or of red cell metabolism (pyruvate kinase deficiency). Anyone can develop hemolytic anemia. However, it seems to be more prevalent among African-Americans compared to Caucasians, probably due to a higher rate of sickle cell anemia among the former demographic.
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