Symptoms and treatments are important in determining whether you have sickle cell anemia. In this article, experts from Harvard Medical School explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments of the disease. You can lower your risk and protect your life by understanding the risks of stroke and reducing your overall risk of dying from this disease. Those with sickle cell anemia may experience an episode during their menstrual cycle. While most of these episodes have no recognizable cause, women are more prone to them.
Among the most common symptoms of sickle cell disease is yellowing of the skin, eyes, and mouth. This occurs because sickle cells die more quickly than the liver can filter them, causing an accumulation of bilirubin in the body. Bilirubin is a substance produced by the liver when it breaks down red blood cells. When sickle cells are overproduced, they can obstruct the penis, causing painful episodes of impotence or infertility. Because of the underlying disease, the symptoms of sickle cell anemia are often similar to those of other blood disorders and medical conditions.
Pain is also common in sickle cell anemia patients. Periodic pain episodes, called vaso-occlusive crises, occur when sickled red blood cells block blood vessels and prevent blood flow to certain organs. Pain may last for several hours or even weeks. A severe pain crisis may require hospitalization. The frequency and duration of pain crises will vary from person to person. Some people may experience chronic pain.
A child with sickle cell anemia may start taking antibiotic penicillin as early as two months of age. It may continue until their fifth birthday. The purpose of antibiotics is to prevent infections that can be life-threatening for sickle cell anemia patients. Some antibiotics may also help adults fight certain infections. Children may also be given pain-relieving medications during sickle crises. In severe cases, stronger prescription pain medications may be prescribed.
There is currently no cure for sickle cell anemia, but treatments are available to reduce the symptoms and improve overall health. Treatments for sickle cell anemia may include medication, blood transfusions, or supplemental oxygen. Surgery may be an option. Surgery may also be necessary to correct vision problems or remove a damaged spleen. These treatments may take many months or even years to work, but they can make a big difference in a patient’s life.
Infants with sickle cell anemia can experience fever, abdominal pain, pneumonia, dactylitis, splenic infarcts, and intermittent episodes of pain. In young adults, sickle cell anemia may lead to aseptic necrosis and damage to the eyes. While adults do not show symptoms until the age of 10 years old, severe cases can lead to serious consequences including kidney failure, heart failure, and even death.
A child who has this disease is likely to inherit two copies of the abnormal HBB hemoglobin S gene from both parents. This condition is inherited autosomally, meaning that it is spread amongst all sexes equally. Because sickle cells are a result of this disorder, a child must have two copies of the defective gene to develop the disease. However, this can be very rare in some people, and is best treated with a medical professional.
The first and most important step in the prevention of sickle cell anemia is to ensure that you have a sufficient supply of red blood cells. Because sickled red blood cells are irregular in shape, they can easily stick to the walls of blood vessels and block blood flow. In addition, the sickled blood cells are short-lived, only living about 10-20 days, causing anemia. Because the body needs new blood cells constantly, the bone marrow must make replacement cells. However, it is unable to meet demand, so the body suffers. In short, this shortage of red blood cells results in anemia.
Fortunately, the disease is highly preventable. If detected early enough, the symptoms can be treated with an anti-diuretic drug, such as penicillin. This can help prevent severe infections that can lead to death, as well as surgeries to remove the spleen. Other preventive measures include routine medical care and proper screening for childhood diseases. There are also many home remedies for sickle cell anemia, including vitamin B complexes, ibuprofen, and heparin.