What is sickle cell anemia?
Sickle cell anemia, or sickle cell disease is a genetic disease of the red blood cells (R.B.C). Normally, R.B.C are shaped like discs, which gives them the flexibility to travel through even the smallest blood vessels. However, with this disease, the R.B.C have an abnormal crescent shape resembling a sickle. This makes them sticky and rigid and prone to getting trapped in small vessels, which blocks blood from reaching different parts of the body. This can cause pain and tissue damage.

Diagnoses: involves blood tests to identify the presence of abnormal hemoglobin. Newborns are often screened for the disease, enabling early detection and management.

Symptoms: Fatigue, pain, and shortness of breath. Painful episodes, known as crises, occur when sickle cells block blood flow through small vessels.

Who is at risk for sickle cell anemia? Children are only at risk for sickle cell disease if both parents carry sickle cell trait. People from Africa, India, the Mediterranean and Saudi Arabia have endemic malaria are more likely to be carriers.

Treatment: While there is no cure for sickle cell anemia, various treatments aim to alleviate symptoms and manage complications. Pain relief medications, blood transfusions, and hydroxyurea, a medication that helps increase the production of fetal hemoglobin. In severe cases, a bone marrow or stem cell transplant may be considered.

Prevention: You can’t prevent sickle cell disease because it’s a genetic condition. Genetic counseling plays a crucial role in preventing sickle cell anemia. Couples with a family history of the disease can undergo testing to determine their risk of having a child with the condition. Sickle cell anemia poses significant challenges, but advancements in medical understanding and treatments offer hope for those affected.

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