Sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia is type of anemia that is inherited. It is passed down from two parents who carry the sickle cell trait. In this type of anemia the red blood cells are formed in an abnormal shape which can cause a myriad of problems for the person who suffers with this type of disease.

Normal red blood cells are disc shaped or round. These red blood cells carry hemoglobin which is a protein. This protein gives our blood the rich red color it has. It also is the component that carries oxygen from the lungs to the other parts of the body.

In sickle cell anemia the person’s red blood cells are not formed normally. The red blood cells are sickle shaped or shaped like the letter C. The shape of the red blood cells makes it more difficult to pass through the circulatory system. These cells tend to be more sticky in nature and tend to clump together which can cause blockages in the blood vessels. This in turn can cause severe pain, infection and damage to the organs of the body due to a lack of proper blood flow.

Our red blood cells are made in the marrow of our bones. The body is constantly making new cells to replace the old red blood cells as they are needed. Normal red blood cells have a life of 120 days. They then die and are replaced by new cells that are produced by the bone marrow. When a person has sickle cell anemia the red blood cells do not last nearly as long as a normal person’s does. They usually have a lower number of red blood cells because sickle cells normally only have a life of 10-20 days and the bone marrow cannot keep up with the demand of the red blood cells that are needed by the body.

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disease. In order to get sickle cell anemia a child must get the sickle cell trait from both parents. If a child gets the sickle cell trait from one parent and then receives a healthy gene from the other parent, they will carry the sickle cell trait. They will not have the disease but will have the ability to pass the disease on to their children if they have children with a partner who also carries the sickle cell trait.

This is a life long disease for which there is no cure. Bone marrow transplants give the best odds of treatment at the present time but these are only available in a small amount of cases. This disease affects millions of people each year. It is more prevalent in African Americans, Hispanics, South Americans, Central Americans, people from India, Turkey, Greece, Saudi Arabia, and Italy. This disease is seen in 1 in 500 births in African American children. It is also seen in 1 in 35,000 Hispanic births. Statistics show that there are approximately 2 million African Americans in the United States with sickle cell anemia.

This disease is present at birth but usually does not show up until after six months of age. The most common signs and symptoms are fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, hands and feet become cold, chest pain, and skin that is pale. An episode of unexplained severe pain all over the body is a common symptom of sickle cell anemia. This is commonly called sickle cell crisis. This occurs when the abnormal sickle cells clump in the blood stream and cause blockages. This pain can last from a few moments up to days. Chronic pain has been noted with this disease. People have complained of pain lasting as long as months.

Some complications that can occur with sickle cell anemia include splenic crisis. The spleen is located in the abdomen. It works to filter the blood that passes through it and to fight off infectious processes. In splenic crisis, the spleen gets clogged with sickle cells and cannot function properly. This causes shrinkage of the spleen. If this takes place, blood transfusions may be necessary to counteract this problem.

In addition to the spleen being compromised, this causes the body to be more apt to succumb to infections. People who have damaged spleens have a much harder time fighting off infections. This can be devastating for infants and children for who this can become life threatening. The most common infection that is seen in children with sickle cell anemia is pneumonia.

Children who have sickle cell anemia tend to grow at a slower pace than normal. They also tend to go through puberty at a later date than most other children. Other complications that can occur with sickle cell anemia include stroke, pulmonary atrial hypertension, hand-foot syndrome, and vision problems.

Last updated on Feb 25th, 2010 and filed under Other Conditions & Diseases. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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