You may already be familiar with iron-deficiency anemia, the kind that is brought about by insufficient amounts of iron in the body. Did you know that the blood condition has another type? It’s called sickle cell anemia, and it is due to the abnormal shape of the red blood cells or RBCs which allow the blood to carry oxygen.
This type of anemia is inherited, so it’s not something that you can get from having a poor diet or from another person with such blood problem. Unlike other inherited diseases, you need two copies of the gene responsible for it in order for you to have sickle cell anemia. Otherwise, having only a single gene makes you have the sickle cell trait.
Also known as sickle cell disease or SCD, it comes in different types. Treating sickle cell anemia may be done through blood transfusions as well as bone marrow transplant. There are also all sorts of medications available for the various symptoms associated with sickle cell anemia.
Let’s now look at some of the most important matters you should know about this inherited blood disease:
Sickle Cell Anemia Cause
The disease is characterized by the abnormal shape of the RBC. Normally, RBCs are shaped like small discs. Their shape makes it possible for them to travel freely even in the smallest and tightest of blood vessels.
Someone with sickle cell anemia has RBCs that are crescent-shaped, and that’s how the word “sickle” became a part of the condition’s name. Due to the abnormal shape of the RBCs, they end up sticky and rigid rather than free-flowing, preventing them from reaching the various areas of the body by means of the blood vessels. This leaves the patient with pain. Also, it tends to result in tissue damage since oxygen cannot be delivered properly where they are needed.
Signs and Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia
The different signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia may appear in babies as early as its 4th month. However, they usually show up when the patient is 6 months old.
Jaundice, which is the yellowing of the skin and eyes, is one of the most common signs of the disease. The hands and feet may appear swollen. Babies with the condition seem irritable. Someone with sickle cell anemia may have frequent infections. Bedwetting may happen due to kidney complications. The person may also experience shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue and weakness, all of which are hallmarks of anemia.
Sickle Cell Anemia Complications
There are many other health problems that may arise due to sickle cell anemia. They begin to happen when the sickle-shaped RBCs clump together, causing the blockage of blood vessels leading to various parts of the body. Someone who is experiencing severe pain and/or damaging blood vessel blockages is said to be having sickle cell crisis.
Anemia is one common complication. It’s because RBCs that are abnormally shaped tend to live only for 10 to 20 days rather than about 120 days. Hand-foot syndrome, which is characterized by the swelling of the hands and feet, may take place too. The blockage of blood vessels may also cause skin ulcerations, as well as affect the eyes and kidneys.
Due to the insufficient amounts of oxygen carried by the blood, the heart may make up for it by ending up enlarged as it attempts to supply the body with more oxygen. It’s possible for someone with sickle cell anemia to be at risk of high blood pressure and stroke.
Men with the blood disease may suffer from what’s known as priapism. This is something that causes prolonged erection which involves a lot of pain. Such happens when the blood vessels in the penis are blocked.
Treatment for Sickle Cell Anemia
There are a couple of treatments available for sickle cell anemia: bone marrow transplant and blood transfusions. The signs and symptoms associated with the condition may be managed through medications. Some examples are painkillers and antibiotics. Oxygen may be supplied to improve the levels of oxygen in the blood. Males suffering from priapism may undergo surgery to have the particular complication of sickle cell anemia dealt with.