Here’s the rundown on sickle cell anemia.
It causes a person to have abnormal hemoglobin (sickle hemoglobin) in their red blood cells. In order to understand what I’m talking about, you have to know that hemoglobin is the protein within red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. Normally, red blood cells are smooth and round. Sickle cells have a different, crescent shape.
These red blood cells have trouble carrying oxygen and circulating in the person’s body. And when cells don’t get enough oxygen, they can’t work to their maximum capacity. What actually happens is that the cells stick to the walls of blood vessels and cause blockages, disrupting the necessary transport of oxygen to the body’s tissues and organs.
Additionally, the life of the sickle red blood cell lasts 10 to 20 days, while a healthy red blood cell lives between 90 and 120 days. This means the patient has less red blood cells, hence the term “anemia.”
A person living with sickle cell anemia eventually experiences organ damage, particularly to the spleen.
Sickle cell diseases, all inherited, are not contagious. The downside is, apart from stem cell transplants, there is no cure. Sickle cell anemia is the most common and the most severe form of this group of diseases.
Patients experience “pain crises,” which can have a sudden onset and usually require hospitalization to relieve the pain. Children can remain pain-free between bouts, but in adults, chronic pain is frequently the norm.
The Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Foundation is moving mountains to raise awareness about this disease so that research can continue and better treatments can be developed. Visit them online to find out how you can make a difference. And read here about one woman’s journey of living with sickle cell anemia.