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Sickle Cell Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Sickle cell or sickle cell anemia is a disease that affects red blood cells due to an abnormality in hemoglobin, a protein responsible for capturing and transporting oxygen to the different tissues of the body. Sickle cell anemia is a genetic problem in which a child is born with two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. If only one gene is inherited, the person will have sickle cell trait and will not develop the symptoms of this disease.

Sickle cell anemia is a severe condition with a high mortality rate; there are about 100,000 fatal cases per year. The highest incidence of this disease is in people of African origin and their descendants on other continents. There is currently no cure for this disease, but there are several methods that can help you lead a better quality of life. For this reason, in this FastlyHealarticle, we will explain the causes, symptoms, and treatment of sickle cell anemia.

Causes of sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia is hereditary and what happens is that the red blood cells develop abnormally, with rigid and curved characteristics like sickle-shaped. This process can be reversed by capturing oxygen again in the lungs, but with each transformation, the membrane deteriorates, and the abnormal shape of the red blood cell becomes irreversible.

These sickle cells are usually very fragile, and their life cycle in the bloodstream is concise, which is why people with this abnormality have low red blood cell counts. In addition, due to their abnormal shape, they do not circulate properly in the blood and can obstruct the passage in the blood vessels.

Symptoms of sickle cell anemia

Although sickle cell anemia is present from the beginning of the patient’s life, it is at six months of age that it begins to develop with its related symptoms due to the lack of red blood cells, mainly:

  • Soft spot.
  • Headache.
  • Dizziness
  • Severe pain
  • Pallor.
  • Periodic fever
  • Difficulty breathing.

In general, symptoms such as normal anemia are observed; however, it can lead to severe complications along with other symptoms, such as:

  • Pain crisis or vaso-occlusives, there is joint and abdominal pain, the bone marrow is mainly affected, and it may trigger a heart attack and necrosis.
  • A lung infection also causes acute chest syndrome.
  • Bone necrosis
  • Aplastic crisis, the bone marrow cannot produce red blood cells for a time.
  • Organ damage from reduced blood flow, mainly the heart, kidneys, and brain.
  • Splenic sequestration crisis, the spleen increases its size causing damage due to the accumulation of abnormal red blood cells.
  • Dactylitis is inflammation with pain in the hands or feet.

Treatment for sickle cell anemia

Although a method has not been developed to eliminate sickle cell anemia, a series of treatments can be followed to help reduce symptoms and improve the patient’s condition; a more remarkable survival of people with this disease has been observed.

It must be taken into account that each person is different, and the improvement of the disease will depend on the condition and predisposition of the patient. It is essential that you go to a doctor to diagnose your condition and, based on this, prescribe the treatment that best suits you. The treatment for sickle cell anemia may include:

  • Use antibiotics to prevent infection, as the patient’s immune system is often weakened.
  • Blood transfusion.
  • Treatment with hydroxyurea, a medicine that, in addition to helping to relieve the symptoms of sickle cell anemia, increases the amount of fetal hemoglobin in red blood cells, which reduces anemia. Although it is an effective method in adults, in the case of children, there is very little evidence of improvement.
  • Use of stem cells, this treatment is still in development and is carried out by subtracting stem cells from the umbilical cord of a relative of the patient who is not a carrier of the disease and is administered to the person with anemia; it must also be treated with chemotherapy to stop the production of sickle red blood cells. Unlike hydroxyurea treatment, this method is more likely to be effective in children than adults. However, one of the drawbacks of this procedure is the cost of conserving stem cells.

This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Sickle Cell Anemia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment , we recommend that you enter our Blood, Heart and Circulation category .

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