Sickle cell treatment

Sickle cell is a form of anemia, whereby there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry enough oxygen throughout the body. In a healthy body, the red blood cells are extremely flexible and able to easily move through your blood vessels. However if you are suffering from sickle cell anemia, red blood cells will become sticky and rigid and will typically be shaped like a crescent moon or sickle. Unfortunately these irregularly shaped red blood cells will often get stuck in small blood vessels, which will eventually slow down or completely block blood flow and oxygen to the other parts of your body. There is no recommended cure for sickle cell anemia, although there are numerous treatments that can help to prevent further problems and also relieve pain.

The only actual cure for sickle cell is a bone marrow transplant. However the procedure has some extremely severe risks associated with it, which can include death. Additionally it can be very difficult to find a bone marrow donor. Therefore, you will typically find that any treatment for sickle cell anemia is mainly aimed at relieving the symptoms and preventing further complications. You should also make regular visits to your doctor or health care provider to monitor your red blood cell count. Treatments for sickle cell include:

Medication – antibiotics are the first form of medication used to treat sickle cell. The antibiotic penicillin is usually prescribed to children with sickle cell and they will usually take this from the age of two months up until they are five years old. This can help to prevent infections, which may be life-threatening to a child. Antibiotics are sometimes used to help adults with sickle cell.

There is also certain pain relieving medications that your doctor can prescribe. These are generally over the counter pain relief medications. Applying heat to the affected area may also give pain relief. Depending on how far along your condition is you may even require a far stronger prescription pain medication.

Hydroxyurea is a prescription drug that is typically used to treat cancer. However it is also known to be extremely helpful for adults who are suffering with a severe disease. By taking hydroxyurea on a daily basis, you can reduce how often you affected by pain and you may also be able to reduce the need for blood transfusions. It is extremely important that you speak with your doctor first as this drug is not intended for long-term use. It has even been known to cause tumours or leukaemia in certain people.

Blood transfusions will involve removing the red blood cells from a supply of donated blood. These are then supplied intravenously to someone who is suffering with sickle cell. This will, of course, increase the number of red blood cells in circulation, which in turn will help to relieve anemia. Regular blood transfusions are also known to decrease the risk of stroke in children.

However blood transfusions still have some associated risks. Although blood contains iron, by having regular blood transfusions you can build up an excessive amount of iron in your body. Large quantities of iron in the body are known to damage the heart, liver and other major organs.

Bone marrow transplants are aimed at replacing the bone marrow that has been affected by sickle cell. This will usually be done by using healthy bone marrow from a donor who is not suffering with sickle cell. As mentioned, this is an extremely risky procedure and it is often difficult to find suitable donors however this may be a potential cure the sickle cell. Bone marrow transplants are only ever recommended for people who have significant problems and symptoms of sickle cell. This will usually require a long hospital stay and you will need further medication which can help to prevent your body rejecting the donated bone marrow.

In recent years there have been a number of experimental treatments. These include:

Gene therapy – we are aware that sickle cell is typically caused by a defective gene and it is currently being researched as to whether inserting a normal gene into the bone marrow of people who are suffering from sickle cell will produce any positive results. It is hoped that this can help to produce normal hemoglobin and also fetal hemoglobin.

Butyric acid is best known as a food additive however it may actually be able to increase the amounts of fetal hemoglobin in the blood.

Nitric oxide is a gas that can help to keep blood cells open and will actually reduce the stickiness of red blood cells. We are aware that sickle cell will cause a low level of nitric oxide in the body and therefore this may be a viable treatment.

Nicosan is currently undergoing trials in the United States and is a herb-based treatment. Nicosan has actually been used in Nigeria to prevent sickle cell.

Last updated on May 1st, 2011 and filed under Other Conditions & Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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