Sickle Cell Anemia

Normal red blood cells are smooth and round.  They move easily through blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body.In sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become hard, sticky, and shaped like sickles or crescents.  The cells tend to stick in the vessels and block blood flow.This can cause damage, pain, and anemia. Anemia is a shortage of red blood cells in your blood.  In sickle cell anemia, the shortage occurs because cells do not last very long.Your body cannot make enough new cells to keep up.

Sickle cell anemia is a serious disease with no universal cure.

What Causes Sickle Cell Anemia?

People with sickle cell anemia inherit two genes, one from each parent that are variant (different from normal).  The variant genes are called sickle cell genes.The variant genes tell the body to make variant hemoglobin that results in deformed red blood cells.  Hemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that carries the oxygen to all parts of the body.

What Are Signs And Symptoms Of Sickle Cell Anemia?

Signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia can vary from person to person.Some people have mild symptoms, others more severe.  The most common symptoms are fatigue, paleness, yellowing of the skin and eyes, shortness of breath.Pain can be acute and have a sudden onset, or be chronic in nature and last for months.  The pain can be in organs or joints and is due to the blockage of blood flow and oxygen throughout the body.Other symptoms may include swelling of the hand and feet, eye problems, infections and fever, ulcers on the legs, stroke, and gallstones.

How Is Sickle Cell Anemia Diagnosed?

Sickle cell anemia is diagnosed by a simple blood test.

What Is The Treatment For Sickle Cell Anemia?

There is no cure for sickle cell anemia.  The goal of treatment is to relieve pain, prevent infections, and control complications.Treatment includes medications to keep the blood counts normal, blood transfusions, antibiotics and other medications to treat complications.