Today is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day!
Welcome back, everybody! I’m so glad you’ve joined us. I know last week was packed full of awareness blog posts, and I hope it didn’t overwhelm anyone. I just wanted to make a point to address Men’s Health as comprehensively as possible because many of the top ten causes of death are preventable if you know what you’re at risk for, and make the appropriate lifestyle changes. I also wanted to call attention to some uncommon health and/or awareness observances, because we’re all about awareness here and teaching people about things they’ve never heard of before is kind of the whole point. Of course, it’s important to raise awareness about common issues that affect the community as well, so that we know how best to help ourselves and help others. Today we’re going to discuss sickle cell disease in honor of World Sickle Cell Awareness Day!
Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that affects the red blood cells. Sickle cell is caused by defective hemoglobin genes. 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, but they will not experience symptoms. Carrying the sickle cell trait means that you can pass it on to your children. Sickle cell disease occurs when both of the hemoglobin genes inherited by their parents are defective. This defect causes the shape of the red blood cells to be deformed, causing them to function abnormally and die too quickly. The deformed red blood cells take the shape of a sickle. If you are unfamiliar with what a sickle looks like, it’s sort of similar to a crescent moon shape. Healthy red blood cells live for around 120 days, and then they die and are replaced with new ones. A sickle cell only lives for a maximum of 20 days. The shape of the cell also poses another problem, which is that the shape can make it difficult to travel through blood vessels. Sometimes, sickle cells get stuck and create a blockage of blood flow. Blockages in the blood vessels can lead to an inadequate amount of blood circulating through the body. This decreased blood flow to organs, muscles, and bones can lead to potentially life threatening health issues.
The most common symptoms of sickle cell disease are anemia and painful occurrences in the extremities, such as the hands or feet, or in the back, stomach, or chest. These painful events are called a sickle cell crisis. Chronic anemia caused by sickle cell disease can lead to fatigue, weakness, jaundice, shortness of breath, and a pale appearance. With severe anemia caused by sickle cell disease, pulmonary hypertension can be caused. Pulmonary hypertension is when high blood pressure occurs in the lungs. This can be very dangerous, and even fatal. Sickle cell crisis occurs when the sickle cells build up in the blood vessels and block the blood flow to certain parts of the body. These sickle cell crisis symptoms can be extremely painful, and may require a stay in the hospital. Sickle cell crisis can last anywhere from a couple of hours to days on end. They may occur very rarely or frequently, depending on the patient. Each patient is affected by sickle cell disease. There is no way to predict how any patient will present or how severe the disease will affect them. Only time will tell. Sickle cell disease is a chronic illness and a lifelong battle against symptoms of the disease. People with sickle cell disease have to fight severe pain, anemia and the symptoms that accompany that, infections, and stroke. Like many other chronic illnesses, sickle cell disease can be managed and patients may lead normal lives. Patients will have to be vigilant about adhering to their treatments in order to maintain relative health. Most patients learn how to manage the disease and adapt their lives to accommodate their health, without having to sacrifice the things they love. Likewise, some people suffering from sickle cell disease may be affected severely and may be unable to work, or they may need help. Preventing sickle cell crisis is always the number one priority.
Recognizing and seeking treatment for sickle cell crisis is imperative. The following are symptoms one might experience during a sickle cell crisis: • Chest pain or shortness of breath. This may subside on it’s own, but it is still important to call the doctor managing the disease and inform them even if the symptoms go away on their own. That goes for all of the symptoms listed here. Do not mistake the symptoms disappearing for a sign that you are fine. • Severe pain in the abdomen. • Severe pain in the hands or feet. • Severe back pain. • Unexplained weakness or sudden weakness. • Tingling in the hands or feet. • Numbness in the hands or feet. • Sudden difficulty with coordination and balance. • Confusion. • Difficulty speaking/jumbled speech or an inability to talk. • Sudden vision changes. • Severe headache. • Fever over 101 degrees • Severe cough. • Loss of consciousness. • Vomiting. • Diarrhea. • Lightheadedness or dizziness. • Enlarged spleen. • Erections that last longer than 2 hours/very painful erections. • Severe pain that cannot be controlled with the usual method of pain management, either over the counter or prescription. • Frequent urination and open ulcers are also symptoms that need to be addressed by a doctor.
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. People with sickle cell disease commonly experience pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs. This can be very dangerous, and potentially fatal, as I mentioned earlier. Pulmonary hypertension can be diagnosed early on using an echocardiogram, which is a painless test that simply measures blood flow.
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. Parents of children with sickle cell disease will have to become their child’s advocate and get informed about the disease in order to spot the signs and prevent infection, anemia, or sickle cell crisis. Children with the disease can sometimes develop more slowly, and hit puberty later than normal. 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. Daily antibiotics for children starting at age two and ending at age five are used to prevent dangerous infections. Children between the ages of two and five are at higher risk of developing life-threatening infections. There is a medicine called hydroxyurea that is used to treat sickle cell disease. Multivitamin supplements with iron and folic acid are important during infancy, and into childhood. Some kids may need protein supplements as well, particularly if they are anemic or have difficulty gaining weight. Sometimes children regularly receive blood transfusions in order to prevent symptoms or stroke. Transcranial ultrasounds are a good idea after the child turns two years old. These ultrasounds are used to analyze blood flow in the head and neck arteries, to assess the child’s risk for stroke. Regular blood transfusions are one of the treatments used to lower the risk for stroke. Pain management doctors are an important part of dealing with sickle cell disease. Chronic pain is exhausting and stressful, but a pain management doctor can help by developing a plan for dealing with it. Painful episodes can be sudden and it is important to have a plan in place for when they occur.
That’s it for today, guys! Thanks for stopping by. Come back next week for more of the Personalized Cause awareness blog.
If you’re new to this blog, welcome! I’m thrilled you’ve stumbled upon us and decided to give this post a read. Let me introduce the company behind the awareness blog. Personalized Cause is an awareness accessory brand that specializes in custom awareness ribbons. Personalized Cause also carries a variety of other awareness accessories, such as classic awareness ribbons, fabric awareness ribbons, and awareness wristbands. Custom awareness ribbons are a unique product that allows customers to personalize their awareness ribbon with any name, date, message, or phrase they choose. This is made even more unique by the fact that there is no minimum order for custom awareness ribbons, so you may order just one, or a whole bunch with all different personalization. It’s completely up to you. Personalized Cause is a firm believer in the power of awareness. We have seen first hand how one awareness ribbon can impact an entire community of people. A symbol as small as an awareness ribbon can be a silent and powerful show of support, it can be a badge of honor, or it can be a tool used to educate others and raise awareness. Click the link below to check out our products. The Personalized Cause awareness blog is dedicated to raising awareness for as many causes as possible. Awareness is the key to understanding, acceptance, and compassion. I hope you’ll come back next week for another post.
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