Sickle-cell Anemia

What is sickle-cell anemia? What causes sickle- cell anemia?

Sickle-cell anemia is a genetic disorder characterized at the molecular level.  Hemoglobin S, an abnormal variety of hemoglobin is the cause of sickle- cell anemia. In sickle- cell anemia hemoglobin S affects the disc shaped normal red blood cells to take on a sickle or crescent shape. It affects the oxygen carrying capacity of the red blood cells. These damaged red blood cells block the blood flow by sticking on to the blood vessel walls. This leads to impaired blood circulation resulting in life threatening complications such as damage to the brain, lungs, kidneys, heart, bones, spleen and liver. Millions of people all over the world live at the risk of reduced life expectancy and disability associated with sickle- cell anemia.

What are the symptoms of sickle-cell anemia?

Symptoms of sickle- cell anemia vary from mild to severe.

  • Crises: severe pain in the lower back, leg, joints, and chest.
  • Anemia
  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Infections
  • Delayed growth
  • Problems with vision
  • Breathing problem
  • Jaundice
  • Pale skin
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Abdominal pain in younger children

How is sickle-cell anemia diagnosed?

A simple blood test to check for hemoglobin S can diagnose sickle- cell anemia. Newborns are screened for sickle- cell anemia in the U.S. hospitals. For adults blood sample from a vein in the arm is collected for diagnostic procedure. If diagnosed, additional tests are done to check for possible complications.

How is sickle-cell anemia treated?

If you are diagnosed with sickle cell anemia get proper medical care under the expertise of a specialist sickle cell centre. Healthcare professionals from various areas of medical science work together as a team to treat the complications associated with the disorder. Treatment strategies for sickle- cell anemia aims at handling vaso-occlusive crisis, chronic pain syndromes and chronic hemolytic anemia. Necessary steps are taken to face complications and the various organ damage syndromes  such as pulmonary hypertension, infections and stroke, associated with the disease.

For infants and toddlers, regular use of effective medication can reduce hospitalization and cut down the medical cost by 21 percent.

How can sickle-cell anemia be prevented?

This inherited disease cannot be prevented. Necessary steps taken at the earliest can reduce the complications.