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Things to know about sickle cell anemia

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Things to know about sickle cell anemia

Your red blood cells are circular in shape and carry hemoglobin on them that binds oxygen. In sickle cell anemia, your cells are sickle-shaped or like that of a crescent. Due to their abnormal shape, they may stick with each other and may not carry hemoglobin with them.

Sticking red blood cells can obstruct blood flow in tiny blood capillaries, which can be a painful condition. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder that occurs due to chromosomal abnormality.  Until now, there is no such cure for sickle cell anemia for some people. However, symptomatic treatment is given to get rid of the pain associated with it and to prevent its complications. If your child is diagnosed with sickle cell anemia, you should attend follow-up visits with the healthcare provider. For that, you can visit the hematologist in Lahore.

Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia may vary from person to person and may change too. They may show up as the child reaches five months of age. The signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia can be;

Anemia– healthy red blood cells have a life of 120 days, after which they die. But sickle-shaped red blood cells only have a life span of approximately 10 to 20 days. They die too early, eventually resulting in anemia. The signs and symptoms of anemia are;

Getting fatigued

Palpitations

Fast heart rate

Shortness of breath upon little exertion

Dizziness

Pain episodes– sickle-shaped red blood cells may clump with each other, obstructing tiny blood vessels. When they obstruct the blood vessels of the abdomen, joints, or chest, it can cause severe pain because oxygen does not reach your organs- a condition called pain crisis. The episodes of pain crisis associated with sickle cell disease may vary from person to person. Some people may have dozens of episodes in a year, whereas some may have only one or two.

Swelling– when oxygen does not reach your extremities due to clumping of red blood cells, it can cause swelling of hands and feet.

Recurrent infections– people with sickle cell anemia may have a damaged spleen because their red blood cells die too early, which causes too much load on the spleen. Therefore people with sickle cell disease are at risk of catching infections. The healthcare providers may ask you to get vaccinated against infections on time or may give prophylactic antibiotics if you have sickle cell anemia.

Delayed growth and puberty– red blood cells are a source of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to your organs. In sickle cell disease, since red blood cells can not reach the organs efficiently, the blood supply may be disrupted. It can, in turn, affect the growth and development of young children, causing a delay in their puberty and growth.

Visual problem– our eyes are supplied with tiny blood vessels. In sickle cell disease, the blood supply to the eyes may be disrupted, which can damage the retina, leading to vision loss.

Causes

Sickle cell disease occurs when due to genetic abnormality, your body produces faulty hemoglobin. The abnormal hemoglobin causes the shape of red blood cells to change, turning them sickle-shaped, making them sticky and rigid.

Sickle cell disease occurs when both the parents have a defective gene that they pass on to their child. Sometimes you may have one set of sickle cell genes from one parent, therefore your body will produce some sickle-shaped cells and normal too. You may not have any signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease if you are its carrier.

Risk factors

There are no such risk factors for sickle cell disease. To have sickle cell anemia, both parents must pass on their defective genes to their offspring.

Complications

Sickle cell anemia can lead to various complications. They can be described as;

Stroke– sickle cell anemia obstructs the blood flow to the organs due to their abnormal shape and clumping. It can, in turn, lead to stroke. The signs and symptoms of a stroke are;

Seizures

Sudden speech disturbance

Numbness or tingling at one side of the body

Loss of consciousness

If your child has any of these signs and symptoms, you should take them to a healthcare provider.

Acute chest syndrome– a condition that occurs due to chest infection or clumping of red blood cells in the lungs, causing severe chest pain. It is a life-threatening condition that may show the symptoms, such as;

Chest pain

Fever

Difficulty breathing

Pulmonary hypertension– is a condition when the blood pressure in your pulmonary artery remains elevated. Often it affects people who are old aged. The signs and symptoms of pulmonary hypertension are:

Shortness of breath

Fatigue

Organ damage– in sickle cell anemia, the blood flow to your organs is disrupted due to the clumping of red blood cells. Therefore it can lead to organ damage to the organs like kidneys, liver, and spleen.

Conclusion

Sickle cell anemia is a disease that is passed from parents to their offspring. It is a condition in which your red blood cells are abnormal, having the shape of a crescent. Sickle cell anemia can lead to various complications. There is no such treatment for it. However, symptomatic treatment is given to reduce pain and anemia associated with it. If your child is diagnosed with anemia, take them to a hematologist in Islamabad for follow-up visits.

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