Sickle Cell Anemia Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

By Alley Benton
Updated December 7, 2016
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Sickle Cell Anemia Causes, Symptoms And TreatmentsSickle cell anemia is a serious disease. Patients who have it develop red blood cells that have a C shape, like a sickle. In normal individuals, red blood cells are shaped like a disc, which enables them to easily carry oxygen and move through the vessels. Within red blood cells, you can find hemoglobin, which is a protein rich in iron, turning blood red in color. These cells are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to every cell in the body.

For those who have sickle cell anemia, their hemoglobin is abnormal, and this leads to the cells being shaped like a sickle. As a result, it is difficult for the red blood cells to properly travel through the vessels. The cells are sticky and stiff, and usually clump together, clogging up the blood vessels. These clumps stop the blood from flowing properly, thereby causing problems to the organs and limbs. When a blood vessel is blocked, people can experience organ damage, serious infections, and pain.

If you have sickle cell anemia, you will also have very low amounts of red blood cells. This is because these cells have a very short life cycle. Usually, they die after just 10 to 20 days. The body requires far more time to produce new blood cells, which means that patients have periods of time during which they have insufficient red blood cells. This is what is known as anemia.

The Causes of Sickle Cell Anemia:

Before discussing sickle cell anemia treatments, it is important to gain a greater understanding of the condition, including its causes. At present, there is no cure for the disease, and it is an inherited condition. Patients inherit two sickle cell copies, one from the father and one from the mother. The condition, therefore, cannot be contracted, but is always present from birth, although it usually doesn't show up until several months later.

Signs and Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia:

Having sickle cells is generally asymptomatic. However, it is the associated anemia that causes people to experience symptoms, including pain. Some common symptoms are:

- Shortness of breath

- Fatigue

- Headaches

- Dizziness

- Pale skin

- Cold feet and hands

- Chest pain

It is very common for people with sickle cell anemia to experience sudden pain everywhere in their body. This is referred to as a "sickle cell crisis". It generally affects the joints, abdomen, lungs, and bones.

Sickle Cell Anemia Treatments:

Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. Nevertheless, there are drugs and therapies available that can prevent complications and relieve some of the symptoms. Sickle cell anemia treatments, therefore, aim to improve the patients' overall quality of life and life expectancy. These treatments relieve and reduce pain, prevent strokes, eye damage, and infections, and control any present complications. In a small number of cases, a bone marrow transplant may cure sickle cell anemia, although this is incredibly rare. Furthermore, the risks associated with this kind of transplant often do not warrant the potential benefit. However, if you do have the disease, you may want to discuss your options with your physician.

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