Sickle Cell Anemia

Also called: Hemoglobin SS disease

Sickle cell anemia is a disease in which your body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells. The cells are shaped like a crescent or sickle. They don't last as long as normal, round red blood cells. This leads to anemia. The sickle cells also get stuck in blood vessels, blocking blood flow. This can cause pain and organ damage.

A genetic problem causes sickle cell anemia. People with the disease are born with two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. If you only have one sickle cell gene, it's called sickle cell trait. About 1 in 12 African Americans has sickle cell trait.

The most common symptoms are pain and problems from anemia. Anemia can make you feel tired or weak. In addition, you might have shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, or coldness in the hands and feet.

A blood test can show if you have the trait or anemia. Most states test newborn babies as part of their newborn screening programs.

Sickle cell anemia has no widely available cure. Treatments can help relieve symptoms and lessen complications. Researchers are investigating new treatments such as blood and marrow stem cell transplants, gene therapy, and new medicines.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia

The following features are indicative of Sickle Cell Anemia:
  • anemia
  • episodes of pain
  • painful swelling of hands and feet
  • pneumonia
  • slow growth in infants and children and delay puberty in teenagers
  • vision problems
It is possible that Sickle Cell Anemia shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Sickle Cell Anemia

The following are the most common causes of Sickle Cell Anemia:
  • gene mutation

Risk Factors for Sickle Cell Anemia

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Sickle Cell Anemia:
  • both parents carrying a sickle cell anemia gene
  • black people

Prevention of Sickle Cell Anemia

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Sickle Cell Anemia. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • talk to a genetic counselor if you carry the sickle cell trait before trying to conceive

Occurrence of Sickle Cell Anemia

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Sickle Cell Anemia cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Common between 1 - 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Sickle Cell Anemia most commonly occurs in the following age group:
  • Aged between 5-10 years

Common Gender

Sickle Cell Anemia can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Anemia

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Sickle Cell Anemia:
  • Blood test: To check for hemoglobin S presence and red blood cell count
  • Genetic test: To detect sickle cell genes before baby's birth

Doctor for Diagnosis of Sickle Cell Anemia

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia:
  • Hematologist
  • Pediatrician
  • Pediatric hematologist

Complications of Sickle Cell Anemia if untreated

Yes, Sickle Cell Anemia causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Sickle Cell Anemia is left untreated:
  • stroke
  • acute chest syndrome
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • organ damage
  • blindness
  • gallstones
  • priapism

Procedures for Treatment of Sickle Cell Anemia

The following procedures are used to treat Sickle Cell Anemia:
  • Blood transfusions: Increases the number of normal red blood cells in circulation, helping to relieve anemia
  • Bone marrow transplant: Replacing the bone marrow affected by sickle cell anemia with healthy bone marrow from a donor

Self-care for Sickle Cell Anemia

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Sickle Cell Anemia:
  • Take folic acid supplements daily: Helps in making of new red blood cells
  • Drink plenty of water: Decreases the risk of a sickle cell crisis
  • Avoid temperature extremes: Exposure to extreme heat or cold can increase the risk of a sickle cell crisis
  • Exercise regularly: To stay healthy

Patient Support for Treatment of Sickle Cell Anemia

The following actions may help Sickle Cell Anemia patients:
  • Finding someone to talk: Discussing your problems with someone gives you metal relief
  • Join support groups: Find the way of dealing with disease by talking to the individuals suffering from sickle cell anaemia
  • Exploring ways to cope with the pain: Helpful in dealing with pain
  • Learning about sickle cell anemia: Helpful in treatment of your child

Time for Treatment of Sickle Cell Anemia

While time-period of treatment for each patient may vary, below is the typical time-period for Sickle Cell Anemia to resolve if treated properly under an expert supervision:
  • Disease cannot be treated but only maintained or effects reduced

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Sickle Cell Anemia.

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