Know the basics
What is sickle cell anemia?
Sickle cell, also called sickle cell anemia, is a hereditary anemia. Sickle cell is the condition in which there is no enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body.
Normally, red blood cells are round and can move easily through the blood vessels, which helps carry oxygen to all parts of the body. When sickle cell anemia, these cells turn into sickle and become stiff and sticky. These abnormal shaped cells may have trouble moving in small blood vessels, and can slow or stop blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body. This situation leads to the tissues and organs damaged by not getting enough blood.
How common is sickle cell anemia?
The gene families have sickle cell mainly come from Africa, India, the Mediterranean, Saudi Arabia, Qatar Islands Caribbean, Central America and South America. Patients with sickle cell have dark skin account for highest proportion.
Know the symptoms
What are the symptoms of sickle cell anemia?
Common symptoms of sickle cell include:
- Chronic anemia;
- Tachycardia, fatigue;
- Swelling in the hands and feet due to blocked blood vessels;
- Jaundice, growth retardation;
- The severe pain in the chest, abdomen, joints and bones, which last several hours to several weeks.
Sickle cell disease is congenital but after 4 months of age, new symptoms appear.
Complications of Sickle cell include kidney and eye disease, foot gangrene, stroke and infection places such as osteomyelitis, pneumonia. In severe cases, bone marrow will stop producing red blood cells.
There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
Although sickle cell anemia is usually diagnosed in infancy, but if you develop any of the following problems, see your doctor immediately:
- More intense pain without known cause, such as pain in the abdomen, chest, bones or joints.
- Swelling in the hands or feet.
- Swelling in the abdomen, especially painful when touching.
- Fever: people with sickle cell anemia have an increased risk of infection and fever which may be the first sign of infection.
- Pale skin.
- Yellow skin or whites of the eyes.
- Any signs or symptoms of a stroke include:
- Numbness or weakness on one side of the face, arm or leg;
- Loss or sudden loss of vision.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
Know the causes
What causes sickle cell anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is caused by mutations in genes that constitute hemoglobin (the protein beta-globin) -an iron-rich compounds and which makes blood red. Hemoglobin enables red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body. When you have sickle cell anemia, the abnormal hemoglobin makes the red blood cells become hard, sticky and deformed. The sickle cell gene is inherited from generation to generation.
For cases where both parents have sickle cell carrying, giving birth will be:
- 25% chance of newborn babies are not affected by the disease.
- 50% of children born to carry hidden genetic factors, but the disease has no outward manifestation.
- 25% chance of children born with sickle cell.
Know the risk factors
What increases my risk for sickle cell anemia?
The only factor increasing risk for sickle cell is that parents have sickle cell trait. The parents carry the sickle cell trait means that parents have a gene for normal hemoglobin and one gene for sickle cell, so the blood has both normal and abnormal hemoglobin. Meanwhile, although parents still born healthy but will have a 25% risk for sickle cell.
Understand the diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is sickle cell anemia diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose sickle cell based on medical history and your family or blood test to look for sickle cell and hemoglobin mutations.
Children can be diagnosed early if you give young blood test immediately after birth.
How is sickle cell anemia treated?
Sickle cell has no complete cure. These treatments offer doctors control symptoms and relieve pain.
If you or your child is too painful and medicines are ineffective, doctor will inject directly into the muscles or joints strong painkiller narcotic type (nerve blocks for pain). Hydroxyurea inhibits erythrocyte pulp production will be assigned to prevent pain occurs frequently.
You or your child needs extra water and nutrients continuously and need blood transfusions on a regular basis. Meanwhile, the blood which has sickle will be replaced with healthy blood.
Children need frequent use of penicillin to prevent infections.
Your doctor may give you or the child marrow transplant surgery but this method is very complex and requires many conditions for success combined.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sickle cell anemia?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with this disease:
- Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
- Make healthy diet with plenty of green vegetables rich folate. You should supply folate every day.
- Exercise lightly to increase resistance.
- Get vaccination as prescribed by your doctor.
- Do not go on plane without a pressure chamber.
- Do not abuse painkillers. Although analgesics are indispensable material if you or your child has sickle cell but should only use the prescribed medications and always consult your doctor before taking new voluntary or change medications.
- Do not abuse alcohol, beer and narcotics for pain.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: May 30, 2016 | Last Modified: December 13, 2019
Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition.
Porter, R. S., Kaplan, J. L., Homeier, B. P., & Albert, R. K. (2009). The Merck manual home health handbook. Whitehouse Station, NJ, Merck Research Laboratories. Print edition. Page 1037.
Sickle cell anemia. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sickle-cell-anemia/basics/causes/con-20019348. Accessed September 29, 2015.