Sickle cell anaemia is a condition caused due to a genetic defect in RBCs (Red Blood Cells) of haemoglobin. Normally, RBCs are disc shaped which allows them to travel easily even through the smallest blood vessels. However, when RBCs become defective , they become crescent shaped resembling a sickle. This enables them to get trapped in small vessels and blocks blood from reaching different parts of the body.
Symptoms of sickle cell anaemia
There are multiple types of sickle cell anaemia and can be seen in babies at an early stage of about four months.
- Excessive fatigue
- Swelling and pain in hands and feet
- Frequent infections
- Crises or pre odic episodes of pain is experienced in the chest ,arms or legs, which varies in intensity and can last up to a few hours or even days.
Complications that can arise due to the condition
- Painful or even damaging blockages in sickle cell crises.
- Change in temperature
- Poor hydration
- Severe anaemia - due to the shortage of RBCs, sickle celled RBCs last up to maximum 10 to 20 days as compared to a normal life cycle of RBCs ie 120 days. Without enough supply of RBCs , your body experiences lack of oxygen it needs and makes you feel fatigued.
- Hand foot syndrome -Occurs when sickle -shaped RBCs block the blood vessels in the hand or feet which causes hands and feet to well.
- Delayed Growth -Children are generally shorter and have delayed onset of sexual maturation.
- Neurological complications -Seizures and strokes caused by brain blockages can result from sickle cell disease.
- Lung disease -Damage to the lungs related to decreased blood flow can cause pulmonary hypertension or pulmonary fibrosis.
Treatment of sickle cell anaemia
- Rehydration with intravenous fluid has shown to help red blood cells return to normal disc shape.
- Treating borderline or associated infections is an important part of management of the condition.
- Blood transfusions may be done to improve transportation of oxygen and nutrients.
- Supplemental oxygen mask improves the oxygen level in the blood.
- Pain reducing medications may be needed to reduce the pain. Use of over the counter drugs or morphine.
- Immunisations is needed as it helps prevent infection.
- Folic acid supplements under doctor’s recommendation.
- Including good amount of fruits , vegetables, and whole grains may help make your body make more RBCs.
- Having good amount of water.
In order to stay as healthy as possible, it is important to get regular medical care, follow a healthy lifestyle which includes exercise and a balanced diet.