Sickle Cell Awareness Month
Author: Shannon Miller Lifestyle
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
According to the United States National Library of Medicine, sickle cell anemia is defined by having an incidence of sickle red blood cells in the body. A normal red blood cell is a disc. A sickle cell looks like a crescent. The sickle cells are less capable of delivering oxygen to the body than the normal red blood cells. In effect, someone with Sickle Cell Disease has instances of a lower oxygen level in his blood.
How Does One Get Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle Cell Disease is completely genetic, and must be present in both parents for it to be present in a child. If a child has one genetic link to the disease, then he has sickle cell trait, but will not show signs of the disease.
What are the Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease?
Almost all people with Sickle Cell Disease will experience pain and discomfort at times, especially in the chest and back, due to trapped or broken sickle cells. A sickle cell can get caught in smaller blood vessels because of its shape, and can break apart. The result is a reduction in oxygen to parts of the body, causing severe pain. People with sickle cell may suddenly experience shortness of breath, heart palpitations, and jaundice. Eventually, they can become blind and have strokes. Young children with sickle cell disease may complain of stomach pain.
What is the Treatment for Sickle Cell Disease?
According to the Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Association, medical practices are making great strides in the lives of people with sickle cell disease. Before the 1970’s people with sickle cell disease would rarely survive to adulthood. Now, with modern practices, early intervention, and an increase in support, people survive well into adulthood. According to the SCDAA, though, the medical field is lacking the support necessary to help adults with sickle cell anemia live comfortably. Most of the support currently is for children, because adulthood with sickle cell disease is a relatively new thing. The current treatment for Sickle Cell Disease is simply helping relieve the symptoms. Pain medication and blood transfusions are typical treatments for Sickle Cell Disease. Sometimes a kidney transplant or kidney dialysis are necessary.
Do People with Sickle Cell Trait Need to Worry?
It appears that people with sickle cell trait are more likely to experience heat stroke and muscle breakdown in athletic activities. Screening for sickle cell trait is important in children before they join athletics, so that coaches and teachers can be aware of sensitivity to heat and exercise.