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sickle cell

Understanding Sickle cell

Microscopic view of sicke cells causing anemia disease.

Image is from guardian.ng

There are many kinds of diseases that are associated with blood. Some are contagious diseases. Others are developed within the body because of lifestyle or unhealthy habits. On the other hand, there are also such diseases that are inherited, and one of these diseases is sickle cell.

What Is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease or SCD is a red blood cell disorder that is passed on from parents to children. This red blood cell is identified as sickle hemoglobin or hemoglobin S. There are many people with abnormal hemoglobin such as hemoglobin S, but the most common type of SCD is hemoglobin SS or sickle-cell anemia.

Overview

Our body tissues require oxygen, and this is being supplied by our hemoglobin or red blood cells throughout our body. Since hemoglobin has a round shape, it becomes flexible enough to easily flow through blood vessels. It’s soft and elastic, so it can fit freely flow along with other red blood cells.

Meanwhile, sickle cell has a sickle shape similar with that of a leech. Inside the sickle cell, there are strands that form such a shape, and these stands are hard. As a result, sickle cells don’t easily flow through blood vessels. Instead, they stick to the wall and block the blood vessel. Because of this, the supply of oxygen to our tissues are slowed down or even blocked completely.

When your body tissues don’t have enough supply of oxygen, you may suffer from severe pain crises. Such pain comes without early signs or warning, and this usually ends up being sent to the hospital for immediate treatment. In some cases, it can also harm or damage organs such as lungs, heart, brain, kidneys, and liver.

Causes

SCD is only inherited from a parent as it’s not contagious nor developed overtime. Nevertheless, the probability of inheriting sickle cell disease is low because even if your parent has SCD doesn’t necessarily mean you have also inherited it. There are factors that affect the transfer of SCD such as another parent’s condition. This means that both parents should have SCD in order to pass it on to their children. If only one of the parents has SCD, the disease will not be passed down.

Symptoms

There are different symptoms of sickle cell disease, and they vary from one patient to another depending on health condition. Nonetheless, these are some common symptoms you should observe:

  • Eye Problems
  • Slow Growth
  • Infections
  • Swelling
  • Pain

Swelling takes place in hands and feet; however, chronic pain is usually experienced by young adults who have SCD. If not managed properly, it may lead to bone damage and ulcers. Meanwhile, vision problems happen when eyes have the lack the supply of blood as a result of sickle cell blockage.

When You Should See a Doctor

Symptoms may be a false sign or just a sign of another different disease. It’s difficult to predict until you see a doctor. Visit a doctor if you see and experience the following signs:

  • Yellow Skin
  • Frequent Fever
  • Abnormal Swelling
  • Episodes of Pain

Treatment

The only cure for SCD is stem-cell transplant or bone marrow transplant. However, it has a lot of challenges to do so. Aside from the fact that it is difficult to find a donor, only those who are16 years old or below are able to undergo such an operation. Moreover, the operation is risky, and it sometimes leads to death. Nevertheless, antibiotics are administered to cure the crises or pain.

 

 

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World Sickle Cell Day

sickle-cell-anemia-e1424423793954

Image is from TheHealthSite.com

World Sickle Cell Day is acknowledged on June 19th each year to bring awareness to this widespread blood disorder. Sickle Cell Disease is the most frequent genetic disease worldwide and is present on four continents. The United Nations estimates that over 500,000 people are born with this condition each year and that 50% of those affected could die before the age of 5.

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle Cell Disease is a red blood cell disease that is inherited, meaning it is not contagious but a genetic event that people are born with. The affected red blood cells contain mostly hemoglobin S, considered an abnormal type of hemoglobin.

This abnormality causes many of the cells to form an abnormal sickle, or crescent-like, shape. Abnormally shaped blood cells are not able to travel the body as typical round cells, getting stuck or slowing down blood flow to affected areas, and causing further problems.

In addition to affecting blood flow, these crescent-shaped cells are also less hearty than traditional blood cells and are destroyed faster within the body. Patients frequent suffer from anemia, gallstones, and jaundice. Serious illness can be caused by limited blood flow to the lungs and limbs, including stroke and organ damage. Patients are also highly susceptible to bacteria and infection.

How is Sickle Cell Treated?

There is no universal cure for Sickle Cell Disease. Affected patients are divided into three primary groups including Sickle Cell Anemia, Sickle-Hemoglobin C Disease, and Sickle Beta Thalassemia. Treatments for each disease subgroup will vary.

Treatment of symptoms is common, using antibiotics for infection, blood transfusion for blood clots, and medication for pain. Frequent blood transfusion can cause their own problems too, increasing iron in the blood too much, so this is not an ideal solution. Current treatments focus on maintaining patient overall health, and treating symptoms as they arise.

Droxia, the manufacturer name for a drug called hydroxyurea, has been used with some success since FDA approval in 1998, but further research and treatment is still needed.

How Can I find out more about World Sickle Cell Day?

This specific day of awareness was created by a United Nations resolution and features worldwide activities, many of which can be found on the World Sickle Cell Day’s Facebook page.

While different areas may have additional Sickle Cell Awareness events, including Sickle Cell Awareness month in the United States, June 19th represents the united global event. World Sickle Cell Day online provides many resources about this global awareness event including history, the text of the United Nations resolution and involved organizations, and event listing of years past.

Contact these groups to join Sickle Cell awareness and fundraising events in your area.

 

 

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