Sickle Cell: Symptoms Management and Prevention

Sickle Cell

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a hereditary condition that affects your red blood cells, causing them to become stiff and sticky sickled cells instead of circular flexible discs. Sickled cells prevent red blood cells from performing their function of transporting oxygen throughout the body. Sickled cells also live for a shorter period than healthy red blood cells. As a result, you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells and develop anemia, known as sickle cell anemia. 

In a healthy state, red blood cells are spherical and flow via narrow blood channels to transport oxygen to all parts of the body. However, sickle cells die early, resulting in a chronic lack of red blood cells.

They also get caught and obstruct the blood flow when traveling through small blood arteries. This can result in pain as well as other major health issues such as infection, acute chest syndrome, and stroke. 

What is the cause of sickle cell anemia?

A gene defect causes sickle cell disease, which is an inherited condition that occurs when two people with the ‘S’ gene give birth to a child 

To be born with sickle cell disease, a person only needs two genes: one from the mother and one from the father. 

  • Individuals receiving only one gene are being termed a “carrier” of the disease and are healthy.  
  • The risks of having a child with sickle cell disease increase when a carrier has a child with another carrier. (AS and AS) 
  • There is a 1 in 4, or 25% chance of conceiving a kid with sickle cell disease if both parents are carriers of the sickle cell gene

Genotype Compatibility Chart

Study this table below carefully:
AA + AA = AA, AA, AA, AA (Excellent)
AA + AS = AA, AS, AA, AS, (Good)
AA + SS = AS, AS, AS, AS, (Fair)
AA + AC = AA, AA, AA, AC. (Good)
AS + AS = AA, AS, AS, SS, (Very Bad)
AS + SS = AS, SS, SS, SS, (Very Bad)
AS + AC = AA,  AC, AS,SS. (Bad; Advice needed)
SS + SS = SS, SS, SS, SS, (Very Bad)
AC + SS = AS, AS, SS, SS, (Very Bad)
AC + AC = AA, AC, AC, SS. ( Bad; Advice needed)

Common Symptoms

Symptoms can vary from person to person. Some of the possible signs and complications are as follows: 

Anemia 

Because sickled cells are short-lived or destroyed, the body has fewer red blood cells available. As a result, anemia develops. You may feel dizzy, short of breath, and tired if you have severe anemia.  

Pain Crisis

A pain crisis, sometimes known as a sickle crisis, occurs when a person experiences severe pain. This happens when sickled cells become lodged in any blood artery and obstruct the flow of blood to the affected area 

The pain can manifest itself in any part of the body, but it is felt most in the chest, arms, and legs. Swelling of the fingers and toes in infants and young children can be painful, which can interrupt blood flow 

Sequestration

Sickle cells clump together in the spleen, causing crises, and if not treated promptly, this might result in a rapid reduction in hemoglobin, which can be life-threatening.  

Increased blood volume can also cause the spleen to expand and become uncomfortable and the spleen becomes scarred and irreversibly destroyed after repeated occurrences.  

By the age of eight, most children do not have a functioning spleen due to surgical excision or multiple episodes of splenic sequestration. Infection is a serious worry for children who do not have a functioning spleen and is the leading cause of death in this population’s children under the age of five. 

READ ALSO: Cervical cancer: Symptoms and Treatment

Stroke

This is another severe and unexpected sickle cell disease consequence. The abnormal cells can obstruct the major blood vessels that supply oxygen to the brain. 

 Any interruption in the blood and oxygen supply to the brain might result in significant brain damage. If you have one, you’re more likely to have a second and third sickle cell anemia-related stroke. 

Jaundice

Jaundice is a yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mouth. Sickle cell disease is characterized by jaundice, which is a common sign and symptom. Because sickle cells do not live if typical red blood cells, they perish before being filtered out by the liver. 

How to Care for People with Sickle Cell

You can live a full and active life even with sickle cell disease. You can participate in most of the activities that other people do. Making well-informed judgments is crucial in preventing a catastrophe from developing. 

You won’t have complete control over the effects of SCD on your body, but you can, take action to control pain and lower your risk of issues. 

Pain Management

People with SCD have a wide range of symptoms; one of the most common is pain which can range in intensity from minor to severe. Similarly, the treatments used to alleviate it can vary.

Consult your physician: Discuss your symptoms and look for seek strategies to alleviate your discomfort. Medicine and other forms of relief, such as heating pads or physical therapy, may be used.

Pain relievers should be used with caution. Consult your doctor about the best over-the-counter medications for you.

Other Helpful Tips

Because SCD is such a complicated disease, it’s critical to see your doctor for regular exams. They may be able to assist you in reducing the frequency of issues that require immediate medical attention. Here are some additional strategies to look after yourself: 

Drink a lot of water.

If you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to have a sickle crisis, so drink plenty of water — around 8 (eight) glasses each day. If you’re exercising or it’s hot outside, drink more water. 

Eat healthily

Include a variety of fruits, vegetables, complete grains, and protein in your diet. Always consult your doctor on the best food and fruit combinations.

Exercise

Moderate exercise is recommended. Aim for 212 hours of moderate exercise per week, such as walking or cycling. Before beginning a new workout plan, see your doctor. Physical activity is essential for maintaining good health. However, you don’t want to overdo it. When you’re exhausted, take a break. 

Medication

Take your medicine as directed. Make sure you follow the directions on your prescription medication. Get the medical and laboratory testing that your doctor suggests. 

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