Sickle Cell Disease

Doctor sitting | Healthier Me TodaySickle cell disease, also referred to as Sickle cell anemia, is a condition where there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to produce and move along oxygen throughout your body. The disease is a dangerous condition, and there are many different types. However, sickle cell disease is especially harmful and dangerous if not treated quickly.

Red blood cells change their shape in patients with this disease. Instead of being round and flexible, they pass through the body easier. As a result, they are crescent-shaped and get stuck in the blood vessels.

Causes

There is only one cause of this disease: genetics. Both parents must either have a recessive or dominant trait of the gene. It is a mutation that shapes the blood cells differently and is hard to cure. Some people have the mutated gene without symptoms and can pass it along to their children. 

Symptoms

Since there are various Sickle cell anemia diseases, the symptoms vary. However, children with these conditions share a few common symptoms, which include:

  • Delayed growth or puberty
  • Flare-ups followed by pain throughout the body
  • Vision problems that either are permanent or go away with time
  • The swelling of hands or feet as not enough oxygen passes through

What happens if the symptoms are not treated?

If you do not receive treatment for Sickle Cell anemia, you will likely suffer from a worse health condition or problem. The main symptoms, once the condition has worsened, include:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Organ damage
  • Blindness

Diagnosis

The only way to diagnose this condition in adults or children is by taking a gene test using either saliva or blood. The test can then show if a child or adult has a mutated gene. 

There is also a way to diagnose this condition for people looking to have a child. You can request genetic testing from your doctor to ensure that there aren’t any recessive or mutated genes that could transfer themselves. This way, the risks are highlighted, and you are informed of the potential. It is important to note that this condition is rare. There are only a few cases each year diagnosed. 

Treatment/Management

There is still no cure for this illness. Sickle cell anemia is a chronic illness that does not go away with treatment alone. You can soothe the symptoms with lifestyle changes and medication though the medicines have risks and side effects. 

Medications

Hydroxyurea reduces painful episodes and comes with risk, increases the chance of infections, and is not safe for pregnant women.

Crizanlizumab also reduces painful episodes but can cause nausea, vomiting, headaches, and fatigue.

You may also receive Blood transfusions to manage the symptoms, like fatigue, from not having enough healthy red blood cells. The red blood cells also reduce the symptoms and make patients feel better as they are healthy cells that can pass through the vessels. 

Prevention of Serious Complications

Children or adults with Sickle Cell anemia should stay away from infected children and adults. Since the red blood cell count is low, it is hard for children’s bodies to fight against viruses and infections like the common cold. 

Children with Sickle Cell anemia should also have all their vaccines to prevent them from acquiring diseases as their bodies struggle to fight them off. Doctors may also provide patients with Penicillin if children do not have their spleen from complications and infections like pneumonia.


FAQs

  1. How common is Sickle Cell Anemia? It’s not common: There are less than 200,000 cases in the U.S each year. 1 in 1000 Americans has it. 
  2. Is Sickle Cell Anemia contagious? No. Sickle Cell Anemia is not contagious. The condition cannot spread, although children may inherit the condition from their parents.
  3. What is the life expectancy for people living with Sickle Cell Anemia disease? This question is difficult to answer. Advances in medicine and technology, and now children’s life expectancy, but Sickle Cell Disease compromises the person’s immune system, so any condition or virus can be fatal.

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!

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