2017 Blog
World Sickle Cell Day
​​​Overview:
  • Sickle cell anemia is a disease in which the body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells like a sickle or crescent.
  • Sickle cell anemia is hereditary not contagious.
  • There is a difference between sickle cell anemia and iron deficiency anemia.
  • Sickle cell anemia affects millions around the world.
  • Normal red blood cells can live up to 120 days while sickle cells last only 10 to 20 days.
  • It is diagnosed through blood tests.
  • There is no definitive cure for sickle cell anemia. However, some drugs can reduce pain and help prevent complications associated with the disease.
Introduction:
The body produces normal red blood cells that are flexible and disc shaped, moving easily through the blood vessels. In the sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons.
Sickle-shaped cells can stick to small vessels, causing a blockade that can slow or stop blood the flow of blood, whereby oxygen cannot reach all parts of the body.
Red blood cells can live up to 120 days before the body needs to replace them, while sickle cells last only 10 to 20 days causing anemia because of red blood cells disorder.
The sickle cell anemia is a hereditary in that is passed down generations genetically. In other words, it is not contagious and a person cannot catch it, like a cold or infection, from someone else.
 
Causes:
A defect in the gene that directs the production of hemoglobin in the body, changing the shape of red blood cells to become inflexible and sticky.
Symptoms:
Symptoms and signs of the sickle cell anemia, which vary from a person to another and change with time, include:
  • Pale skin.
  • Fatigue and fussiness.
  • Pain Crises.
  • Eye problems.
  • Painful swelling of feet and hands.
  • Chronic pain episodes.
  • Delayed growth.
  • Frequent infections.
Diagnosis:
The diagnosis of the sickle cell anemia involves studying symptoms and medical history of adults and children, and have their blood tested to for hemoglobin abnormality. For SCD patients, the doctor may suggest additional tests to check for possible complications.
 
Risk Factor:
  • If both parents have sickle cell disease.
  • If both parents have sickle cell trait.
  • If one parent has sickle cell disease or trait.
Complications:
Sickle cell anemia can cause a range of complications, including:
 
  • Stroke.
  • Acute chest syndrome that causes chest pain, fever and breathing difficulty.
  • Pulmonary hypertension.
  • Organ damage including kidneys, liver and spleen.
  • Blindness.
  • Leg ulcers.
  • Gallstones.
  • Priapism (leading to impotency).
Treatment:
There is no definitive cure for sickle cell anemia. However, some drugs can reduce pain and help prevent complications associated with the disease.
  • Pain-relieving medications.
  • Folic acid supplements to strengthen healthy blood cells.
  • Vaccination and antibiotics to prevent infection.
  • In acute cases, the patient may need blood transfusion or surgery.
Prevention:
  • Having overall premarital screening helps reduce transmission of sickle cell anemia to next generations.
  • Persons with sickle cell trait must see a genetics counselor before deciding to have children.
If you have sickle cell anemia, you should: 
  • Have sufficient fluid intake and follow healthy diet.
  • Avoid exposure to extreme cold or hot weather conditions.
  • Avoid high altitudes such as airplanes...etc.
  • Ensure sufficient oxygen levels during exercising and on high altitudes.
Frequently asked questions:
 
- What is the difference between sickle cell anemia and iron deficiency (anemia)?
Sickle cell anemia is the disorder of the red blood cells, while in anemia the red blood cells are intact and their number is less than normal level.
- What is the difference between sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease?
Sickle cell trait is due to inheritance of one copy of the altered hemoglobin gene from one parent. In contrast, people with sickle cell disease carry two copies of the altered hemoglobin gene from both parents.
- Can a sickle cell trait ever evolve or convert to sickle cell disease?
No, sickle cell trait can never become sickle cell disease. It is possible that for individuals with sickle cell trait to pass the gene to their children.
- What are precautions should an individual with sickle cell trait take during exercise? 
Individuals with sickle cell trait should consider the same precautions that can prevent injuries and exercise-related illness. These include being mindful of heat and humidity, drinking adequate fluids, taking rest breaks as needed, and not exceeding their current level of fitness.
 
Misconceptions:
  • There is definitive cure for sickle cell anemia.
  • There is no cure; however, studies are currently underway on morrow transplantation, genetic therapy and new medications for the sickle cell anemia.
  • People with sickle cell anemia are advised to take iron supplements.
  • Iron supplements should not be taken to treat the sickle cell anemia without consulting your doctor as they may cause damages.
  • There is a vaccination to prevent the sickle cell anemia.
  • There is no, because it is transmitted by parents’ genes.
  • A person with sickle cell trait should not get married to prevent the risk of passing the disease to babies.
  • A person with sickle cell trait can marry a healthy person and have healthy children.
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Last Update 22 October 2018 12:26 PM
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