Observe World Sickle Cell Awareness Day on June 19.
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that affects the red blood cells. Defective hemoglobin genes cause sickle cell disease. People inherit two hemoglobin genes, one from each parent. If only one of the hemoglobin genes is defective, the person will carry the sickle cell trait. They will not, however, experience symptoms. Carrying the sickle cell trait means, though, that you can pass it on to your children. Learn about this disease on World Sickle Cell Awareness Day.
Sickle cell disease occurs when both of the hemoglobin genes inherited by their parents are defective. The shape of the red blood cells are deformed, causing them to function abnormally. In addition, they die too quickly, for example, within 20 days. In those without sickle cell disease, healthy red blood cells live for around 120 days. They then die and are replaced with new ones.
The deformed red blood cells take the shape of a sickle, which is similar to a crescent moon shape. The shape of the cell also poses another problem. As a result of the shape, red blood cells have difficulty moving through blood vessels. Sometimes, sickle cells get stuck and create a blockage of blood flow. Blockages in the blood vessels can lead to inadequate amounts of blood circulating through the body. This decreased blood flow to organs, muscles, and bones can, therefore, lead to potentially life threatening health issues.
Causes of Sickle Cell Disease
The most common symptoms of sickle cell disease are anemia and pain in the extremities. These painful events are called a sickle cell crisis. Fatigue, weakness, jaundice, shortness of breath, and a pale appearance occur because of sickle cell anemia.
Sickle cell crisis occurs when the sickle cells accumulate in the blood vessels and block the blood flow to certain parts of the body. These sickle cell crisis symptoms can be extremely painful. They may also require a stay in the hospital. Sickle cell crisis can last anywhere from a couple of hours to many days. They may occur very rarely or frequently, depending on the person.
Recognizing Symptoms and Understanding Treatments on World Sickle Cell Awareness Day
Recognizing and seeking treatment for sickle cell crisis is imperative. The following are symptoms one might experience during a sickle cell crisis:
Babies – Screened at Birth
Sickle cell disease can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Currently, most states in this country screen newborn babies for sickle cell disease before they leave the hospital. Babies can also be tested for the disease before they are born. Parents who carry the trait may want to seek genetic counseling before becoming pregnant in order to discuss the chances of having a baby with the disease.
Treating sickle cell disease requires routine doctors visits and routine testing, as most chronic illnesses do. There is no cure for sickle cell disease, so it must be monitored regularly in order to minimize potential for sickle cell crises. Generally, sickle cell disease symptoms are treated as they appear.
For these reasons, parents of children with sickle cell disease must be their child’s advocate and learn about the disease. This helps prevent infection, anemia, or sickle cell crisis. Children with the disease can sometimes develop more slowly and hit puberty later than what is typical. Immunizations are critical for children with sickle cell. Because sickle cell makes it more difficult to fight off infections and viruses, immunizations must be kept up throughout their lifetime.
Personalized Cause and Sickle Cell Disease Awareness
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