Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease is the most commonly diagnosed genetic disease in the world and affects between 70,000 and 80,000 people in the United States. It refers to a group of disorders that result in red blood cells that are misshapen. When this happens, blood flow is restricted. This, in turn, can cause significant damage to organs over time. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it damages the organs by depriving them of the oxygen-rich blood they need to thrive. Sickle cell disease affects roughly one in 500 African Americans and one in 1,000 to 1,400 Hispanic Americans. It is an inherited condition and occurs when a person inherits an abnormal sickle hemoglobin gene from both parents. People with sickle cell are born with it. In cases of sickle cell, oxygen is released from hemoglobin. However, the red blood cells then take on an irregular crescent shape.
Symptoms for Sickle cell disease
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, symptoms of sickle cell disease change with age. Infants may experience fever, swelling of the hands and feet, nosebleeds, frequent upper respiratory infections, and pain in the chest, abdomen, limbs and joints. Children may experience fatigue, shortness of breath and jaundice. Adolescents and adults might experience delayed puberty, severe joint pain, progressive anemia, leg sores, gum disease and vision problems.
There is currently no cure for sickle cell disease. But treatment options focus on relieving pain and preventing infections and other complications. Infants with the disease are typically given antibiotics until age five, as well as special vaccines to protect against infections. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, medical complications are then treated as they come up. For this reason, keeping up with routine health maintenance is crucial. This often involves monitoring blood counts, supplementing folic acid, and getting annual eye exams and brain ultrasounds.
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