Sickle cell anemia symptoms can be manifested differently in individuals. These sickle cell anemia symptoms are experienced during periods of crises or before a crisis.
Sickle cell anemia is a very serious type of sickle cell disease. Written below are some information you need to know about sickle cell anemia and sickle cell anemia symptoms.
WHAT IS SICKLE CELL ANEMIA?
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder.
Talking about “inherited” that is to say sickle cell anemia is passed through genes, from parent to offspring.
Individuals with sickle cell anemia, have an abnormal haemoglobin. Their haemoglobin is sickled in shape; it looks like a crescent or half-moon shape.
The haemoglobin found in the blood is a protein which carries oxygen throughout the body for proper functioning of the systems. People who suffer from sickle cell disease inherit the abnormal haemoglobins one from each parent who is either a sufferer or just carriers of the sickle cell gene.
It is worthy to note that sickle cell anemia is different from sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is a group of disorders like; Haemoglobin SS, Haemoglobin SC, Haemoglobin Sβ0 thalassemia, Haemoglobin Sβ+ thalassemia,Haemoglobin SD, Haemoglobin SE which affects the red blood cells with sickle cell anemia (Haemoglobin SS) being the most severe.
SICKLE CELL ANEMIA SYMPTOMS
Sickle cell anemia symptoms usually come and go, presenting as a crisis. There vary in people and include:
- Anemia: The normal lifespan of a red blood cell is 120 days. That means before they die off, they would already be replaced. But the life span of a sickle cell is only 36days, meaning there die easily leaving the host without enough red blood cells which circulate oxygen. A shortage of red blood cell leads to anemia.
- Episodes of pain.These episodes of pain are called crises. This is one of the main symptoms of sickle cell anemia. The person experiences pain when these abnormal RBC start to block blood vessels found in the heart, joints, and abdomen.
- Vision problems: This symptom occurs in some people. And is as a result of the abnormal haemoglobin blocking the blood vessels found in the eyes. This causes damage to the retina, the eye responsible for processing visual images.
- Infections: people with sickle cell anemia are prone to contracting infections, especially from bacteria that cause pneumonia, flu, meningitis, tonsillitis, septicaemia or bone infections. These frequent infections are as a result of a damage of the spleen which is the organ responsible for fighting infections. It is also important that you take vaccines and antibiotics that prevent infections.
- Swollen extremities ( dactylitis): This is also a sickle cell anemia symptom. And may be the first sign noticed in babies. The swelling is as a result of the abnormal red blood cells blocking blood vessels that supply the hands and feet.
- Poor growth: Since the nutrient and oxygen the body needs for proper functioning and growth is in short supply, this also affects the rate of your growth and also delaying puberty in a teenager.
- Abdominal swellings: The area becomes painful and tender to touch.
- Fever: Fever is one the first evidence for infections. Since people with sickle cell anemia are prone to infections, there always get bouts of fever.
- Pale skin or nail beds: This is as a result of a shortage of red blood cell in circulation.
- Yellow tint to the skin or whites of the eyes: This is also an evidence of sickle cell anemia symptom, which results from anaemia.
- Symptoms of stroke: You may experience some weakness in your face, arms, leg, have trouble walking, numbness, headaches, one-sided paralysis, confusion. These symptoms should be treated as an emergency.
- Extreme fatigue: This is as result of anemia
- Jaundice: This is a yellow coloration found in the skin or the whites of the eyes. It is also a sickle cell anemia symptom.
SICKLE CELL ANEMIA AND MALARIA
An individual suffering from sickle cell anemia hardly suffers from malaria same with individual with the sickle cell trait because of the following reasons;
- The malaria parasites in the red blood cells become destroyed by the spleen which fights off infections. Since the red blood cells are abnormal, there are sent to the spleen for destruction. So, lots of the abnormal cells are destroyed together with any malaria parasite attached to it.
- Since the shape of the red blood cell is crescent in shape which is abnormal, their cell membranes are already stretched, making them porous and unable to nutrients like potassium. Since the malaria parasite depends on the potassium for its survival, lack or none of it leads to the dead of the malaria parasite.
SICKLE CELL ANEMIA TREATMENT
Treatment of sickle cell anemia can be done by just one means. But sickle cell anemia and sickle cell anemia symptoms can be managed using drugs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The treatment of sickle cell anemia is done by:
- Bone marrow transplant: This is the only potential way to cure sickle cell anemia. But it possesses some risk including death and getting a suitable donor can be a serious challenge.
Because of these risks and uncertainty, treatment is geared towards preventing the crisis. And also relieving sickle cell anemia symptoms and avoiding any form of problems by;
- Getting blood transfusions
- Vaccinations to prevent infections
- Getting supplementary oxygen.
Treatment can also be in the form of taking drugs to relieve pain. The drugs are as follows:
- Analgesics: this is used to reduce pains during crises. Acetaminophen, Hydroxyurea (Droxia, Hydrea). Hydroxyurea can reduce the frequency of having painful crises when you take it daily.
- Antibiotics: this is taken to treat or prevent infections example; penicillin
Some experimental treatments include:
- Gene therapy
- Using nitric oxide
- Use of drugs that enhances the production of fetal haemoglobin
- Using statins.