Understanding Sickle Cell AnemiaBy Toby Tunwase
Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary deformity of the red blood cell where there are not enough red blood cells that are healthy enough to be carriers of oxygen through the body. Generally, red blood cells are flexible and smoothly move through the body easily because they are round. However, in sickle cells, the shape of the red blood cells is like a sickle, thereby making them rigid. This means that the cells can get trapped in small blood vessels. This can result in a hinderance of oxygen and blood flow to the different parts of the body. Unfortunately, this condition has no cure, but treatments for pain relief and the prevention of further complications abound.
Symptoms and Signs of Sickle Cell
The symptoms of the sickle cell appear in most children around five months, and vary from child to child. However, some of the most frequent symptoms of sickle cell are:
- Episodes of pain: intense pain that occurs from time to time is a significant symptom of sickle cell disease. The abnormally-shaped cells hinder blood flow through blood vessels to the chest, abdomen, and joints, causing pain. Pain could also occur in the bones. The pain varies in intensity and duration.
- Swelling in the hands and feet
- Frequent infections due to possible damage of the spleen
- Problems with vision
In order to have a child with this illness, both parents must carry a sickle cell gene. For this reason, individuals are advised to know their genotypes before attempting to conceive and give birth to a child.