Sickle-Cell Anemia - What Causes Red Blood Cells Go Weird In Shape?
Blood is the most important fluid that is pumped throughout the body and defines the overall physiology of a human being. When the blood loses its normal functionality, it opens the room for several diseases.
Every year millions of children are born with hemoglobin disorders and one of them is the sickle-cell disease.
The disorder poses a formidable challenge to children as well as the parents. Sickle cell anemia is the most common type of sickle cell disease that often turns life-threatening.
What Is Sickle-Cell Anemia?
As the name denotes it is an anemic condition which is genetically inherited. It is a condition in which the body lacks healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen throughout the body.
Normally, red blood cells are round and flexible moving easily across the body, but in sickle-cell anemia, the red blood cells turn rigid and sticky and form the shape of a banana, crescent moon or sickles. These distorted cells stuck in the blood vessels blocking adequate blood flow and oxygen.
How Many People Are Affected By Sickle-Cell Anemia?
Each year about 3,00,000 lakh children are born with sickle-cell anemia or one of its variants and approximately 80 percent of these numbers are born in poor countries.
In India, the tribal population in central and western regions are highly affected.
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Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia
The signs and symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time. This disorder gives rise to many acute and chronic health illnesses, some of them briefly mentioned below.
- Red blood cells normally live for about 120 days but sickle cells die in 10-20 days causing lack of red blood cells which is also known as anemia. Shortage of red blood cells causes fatigue.
- Sickle cell anemia blocks blood flow to various parts of the body leaving the person in periodic episodes of pain. Pain can occur in chest, abdomen, joints or bones.
- Sickle cell damages an organ that forms the part of immune system protection from various infections. The affected person experience frequent infections, especially the children who are often vaccinated to prevent life threating infections such as pneumonia.
- Shortage of red blood cells means the shortage of oxygen and nutrients which are essential in the development of the body. Lack of red blood cells causes slow growth of infant and children while delaying puberty in teenagers.
- Swelling in hands and feet due to blood flow obstruction.
- Painful erection in man.
- Development of gallstones.
- Some people may experience vision problems as the blood vessels in the eyes get plugged with sickle cells, causing damage to the retina.
- In most severe cases, sickle cell anemia can cause stroke due to blockage of blood flow to the brain.
Is sickle cell anemia curable?
The only cure available till date is the bone marrow transplant. It is usually performed in people under the age of 16 due to a higher risk factor for older people.
Children should make frequent visits to the doctor in order to avoid worst complications. Medication might include antibiotics and some pain relieving medicines prescribed by the doctor.
Currently, researchers are studying various dimensions to treat this disease.