• Spherocytosis

    (Congenital Spherocytic Anemia; Hereditary Spherocytosis)

    Definition

    Spherocytosis is a condition that causes an abnormality in the red blood cell membrane. While healthy blood cells are shaped like flattened, indented discs, these abnormal membranes lead to sphere-shaped red blood cells, and the premature breakdown of those cells.
    Red blood cells suffering from spherocytosis are smaller, rounder in shape, and more fragile than healthy red blood cells. The rounded shape causes the red blood cells to be caught in the spleen, where they break down.
    Spherocytosis cases may be mild, with minor symptoms, or severe with symptoms that quickly surface. These symptoms may occur after certain types of infections. Severe cases may be diagnosed in childhood, while those with mild symptoms may not be diagnosed until adulthood.
    With treatment, symptoms can be controlled.
    Healthy Red Blood Cells
    si2037 97870 1 red blood cells
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    Causes

    Spherocytosis is a hereditary condition caused by genes inherited from the parents.

    Risk Factors

    Spherocytosis occurs in all races, but is most common in people of northern European descent. Having a family member with spherocytosis also increases your risk.

    Symptoms

    Spherocytosis may cause:
    • Yellowing of the skin and/or eyes—known as jaundice
    • Pallor
    • Shortness of breath
    • Fatigue
    • Weakness
    • In children, irritability and moodiness

    Diagnosis

    You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
    Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.

    Treatment

    Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:

    Folic Acid Supplementation

    Folic acid 1 mg/day and consideration for blood transfusions are recommended during periods of severe anemia.

    Surgery

    Surgical removal of the spleen can cure the anemia. The abnormal shape of blood cells remain, but the blood cells are no longer destroyed in the spleen.
    Currently, meningococcal, Haemophilus, and pneumococcal vaccines are administered several weeks before splenectomy. Lifetime penicillin prophylaxis is recommended after surgery to prevent dangerous infections. The surgery is not recommended for children under 5 years old. There is a lifetime risk of serious and potentially life-threatening infections.
    Currently, meningococcal, Haemophilus, and pneumococcal vaccines are administered several weeks before splenectomy. Lifetime penicillin prophylaxis is recommended after surgery to prevent dangerous infections. The surgery is not recommended for children under 5 years old. There is a lifetime risk of serious and potentially life-threatening infections.

    Prevention

    Because spherocytosis is an inherited condition, it is not possible to prevent the disease. Regular screening of individuals at high risk, however, can prevent the risk of complications of the disease with early treatment.

    RESOURCES

    Centers for Disease Control and Prevention http://www.cdc.gov

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

    CANADIAN RESOURCES

    Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

    Public Health Agency of Canada http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca

    References

    Delaunay J. The molecular basis of hereditary red blood cell membrane disorders. Blood Rev. 2007;21:1-20.

    Hereditary spherocytosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114061/Hereditary-spherocytosis. Updated June 24, 2015. Accessed September 23, 2015.

    Revision Information

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