What is sickle cell disease?
Sickle cell disease is a hereditary blood disorder affecting red blood cells. It is mostly seen in people with African, Caribbean, Mediterranean, South and North central America. The red blood cells in these individuals contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin. This causes the red blood cells to be abnormal in shape therefore having difficulty passing through small blood vessels.
Abnormal sickle cell shaped cells will block small blood vessels. Restricted blood flow to different areas of the body can cause tissue to become damaged resulting in the various symptoms below:
Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease:
Anemia. If you are not getting enough red blood cells in the body, they cannot deliver the necessary oxygen your body needs to feel strengthened. Therefore, one feels tired all of the time.
Pain. This is another major symptom of sickle cell disease. Pain can be experienced in episodes lasting a couple of hours to several weeks. Pain can occur in your bones, abdomen, chest or joints. The pain can be intense or mild. Some can experience over a dozen attacks a year which may require medical attention.
Other symptoms include:
- yellowing of the skin or the whites of the eyes
- swollen hands or feet
- poor vision
- shortness of breath
- constant infections
- Complications with the Disease:
- Spleenic Crisis
Normally, your spleen filters out abnormal red blood cells but the spleen may trap the red blood cells causing. As a result, the spleen can grow too big. In severe cases, a blood transfusion may be needed.
This was touched upon earlier. Your body may have a hard time fighting off infections. Children and infants especially made need special vaccines to help their body fight off life threatening illnesses.
Acute Chest Syndrome
This is where the sickle cells get trapped inside of the chest causing pain, shortness of breath and fever.
PH (Pulmonary Hypertension)
When it is difficult for the heart to pump blood to the lungs, pressure may build up as a result. This is called pulmonary hypertension.
Other complications of sickle cell disease include:
- hand-foot syndrome
- delayed growth
- vision problems
- ulcers on the legs
- gall stones
How do you get sickle cell disease?
Sickle cell disease is hereditary. In order for a person to have the disease, both parents must have the abnormal (S) hemoglobin gene.
Sickle cell disease is very treatable. Talk to your doctor about the options that best suit you.