Sickle Cell Anemia
What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is a condition in which the red blood cells will differ from its normal shape and become sickled, stiff and unable to move throughout the body with ease. This kind of blood cells have shorter life span compared to the normal, thus causing shortage to and hampering the body to carry oxygen in adequate amounts. Sickle cells travel to the body and gets stuck in smaller blood vessels most of the time. This could cause a great deal of pain, and could lead to other complications, as this deprives some tissues and organs from blood cells rich in oxygen.
This could be determined by checking the person’s genes. Patients having sickle cell trait do not necessarily develop the sickness, however, this could be passed on to their offspring.
Who Is At Risk?
African Americans are mostly the ones at risk for this disease. About one person out of twelve has such trait. There are a pair of genes that will determine sickle cell anemia. The severity of this disease varies from mild to severe. Sickle cell anemia could happen once in a patient, but there are others who may experience it several times in their entire life.
Cause Of Sickle Cell Anemia
This sickness is genetic, and it is characterized by a pair of genes having sickle cell trait. This commands the body to make red blood cells, but sadly, in a shape that could not be used by the body. Most patients having this disease have parents with sickle trait. It is not necessary for the parents to have the same sickness. Having both parents with a sickle cell trait heightens the risk of its offspring to have the disease, and there is no control as to which child will have the sickness.
Patient having this sickness might have any of these signs: jaundice, anemia, great pain during periods, infections, swollen feet and hands, problems with vision, and hampered growth. The swelling of the hands and of the feet is caused by the blockage of sickle cells in those areas. It could be easily seen among infants, particularly to those babies of African American descent. Should a sign be seen in the infant, immediately have the blood tested. These symptoms could manifest in patients as early as 4 months of age.
This sickness should be given immediate treatment, as there are other serious complications that may arise. This includes damage in the organs, blindness, stroke, open sores, infections in the skin, gallstones, ulcers, priapism (painful and long erections that needs medical attention) which could later develop to damage of the penis when left untreated, and acute chest syndrome due to the lung blood vessels being stuffed with sickle cells.
Signs of sickle cell anemia could be readily seen through a blood test. When blood samples are viewed under a microscope, those with sickle cell anemia has crescent-shaped blood cells. Although it is impossible to determine the severity of the disease, it is possible to know the concentration of normal red blood cells and the sickle cells. The next test to administer to the patient is to determine whether he/she is affected with anemia. It is possible to detect sickle cell anemia among unborn babies through an amniotic fluid sample. However, treatment is not possible.
As for now, the few of the suitable cure for this disease is bone marrow transplant. Only few patients are fortunate enough to find a donor with no traces of sickle cells. However, not all are able to find donors without taking too much time. Thus, medications are necessary to alleviate the symptoms. Antibiotics, or hydroxyurea (medication for cancer patients- it could simulate fetal red blood cell production) could be given to the patient while waiting for a suitable donor.
Sickle cell is a disease that could not be completely treated. But to minimize the hazards that could be acquired from sickle cell disease and to inculcate a positive mind among patients, there should be a good support system. A support system will help the patients see their sickness at a different perspective, make their sickness manageable, and to stay healthy as much as possible.
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