Red cell membrane disorders

All cells are covered by a wrapping called a membrane. In red blood cells, if the components of this membrane are mutated, it becomes vulnerable and fragile and can fall apart. This makes the red blood cell burst open in a process called haemolysis.

There are different types of red cell membrane disorders such as hereditary spherocytosis, hereditary elliptocytosis and hereditary pyropoikilocytosis. These names come from the description of the blood cells down the microscope.

Most people with red cell membrane disorders do not need blood transfusions (though some of them do). Some will need their spleen removed (splenectomy). Most will need to take regular folic acid and can become jaundiced when they are not well.

In general, this is a disease that comes and goes with some periods of anaemia and other periods of feeling well.