Sickle cell disease (SCD) or sickle cell anemia affects the lives of millions of people all over the world but is becoming a more manageable ailment than most might think.
What is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia occurs in the body when red blood cells are misshaped. Instead of blood cells being round, they are crescent shaped - making it hard for them to pass through blood vessels. The diseased cells contain high amounts of an abnormal hemoglobin: hemoglobin S (the "S" stands for sickle). Normally, hemoglobin is the predominant substance in red blood cells and helps the cell move freely through the body, carrying oxygens from the lungs to the entire body. However, Hemoglobin S shortens the lifespan of red blood cells. The cell's inability to flow through the veins smoothly can cause severe discomfort, pain, and many other complications including infection and vascular blockage.
Sickle Cell Anemia: Prevalence
The disease will occur in a child if both parents carry the sickle cell trait. Subsequently, SCD is inherited and there is no cure for it. A simple blood test is given to denote whether someone has the sickle cell trait or SCD. In the US, the disease is most common in African Americans and Hispanics. According to studies, SCD is prevalent among people whose ancestral origins stem from the Sub-Sahara, Saudi Arabia, India, Sri Lanka, the Mediterranean, and other tropical/sub-tropical regions.
Sickle Cell Anemia: Signs and Symptoms
Having SCD can lead to chronic complications, many of which are fatal. Because the sickle cells dissipate so rapidly, they can cause jaundice, anemia and gallstones. Other issues that can result from SCD include, but are not limited to silent stroke, pulmonary hypertension, and leg ulcers.
Sickle Cell Anemia: Treatment
There have been cases when bone marrow/stem cell transplantation has cured a few SCD patients, but most people are not candidates for the risky procedure. Luckily, with new technologies and advancements in research, many people living with this disease can have full lives with minimal complications. There is hope! Life expectancy has almost doubled since 1994 when the expectancy was 42 for men and 48 for women. and now it’s 70s or beyond.
As a child with SCD, a dose of penicillin daily is recommended to ward off deadly infections. Physicians suggest that people with SCD drink plenty of water and try not to overexert themselves. Another option is blood transfusions, but the downside of that treatment is the potential to develop too much iron in your system. Because there is no natural way for the body to rid itself of iron, the iron can build up around major organs and cause problems. Prescriptions are another option to allay symptoms of SCD. It helps to know that though there is no cure, there is a chance to live a nice long life with the proper diet and regiment.
Sickle Blood Cells Now Being Used to Kill Tumors