Sickle cell anemia is a common genetic blood disorder, a condition that affects the count of healthy red blood cells (RBC) in the circulatory system. A low RBC count will pump less oxygen throughout the body resulting in health complications. Sickle cell anemia mainly affects the shape of the red blood cells rendering them rigid and sticky making it difficult for blood to pump and flow normally. The irregular shape blocks or reduces the oxygen supply. Mutation is the primary cause of the condition affecting hemoglobin, a compound that gives the blood cells its distinct red color and ability to carry oxygen.
Here are a few important facts about sickle cell anemia one must know:
- Affects many ethnic groups
Sickle cell anemia has been known to predominantly affect people of African descent. However, the condition can affect multiple ethnic groups and races including Indian, Caucasian, Brazillian, and Spanish. It is one of the main reasons why all babies born in the States test for traits of the genetic disorder.
- Difference between trait and disorder
The disease is not contagious in nature. The genetic disorder is passed down to the next generation in a known pattern of autosomal recessive inheritance. Both the mother and father must pass the genetic mutation in order for the child to suffer from the condition. When one parent passes down the mutation, the child will only bear a sickle cell trait making them the carrier of the disease. Carriers do not develop the disease as the trait stays dormant until it can be passed down to the next generation.
- Different types of sickle cell disease
Hemoglobin SS is the most common type of genetic disorder. It is also one of the more severe conditions when it comes to developing the symptoms along with Sickle Beta-Zero. Hemoglobin SC and Sickle Beta-Plus Thalassemia are other known types with mild to moderate levels of severity.
- Can result in multiple health complications
Irrespective of the severity of the condition, sickle cell anemia affects the most vital oxygen supply system in the body. The intricate network of the circulatory system is responsible for carrying fresh oxygen to vital organs including the heart, brain, liver, kidneys and almost every organ in the human body. The risk of suffering from a stroke, gallstones, eye disease, and serious bacterial infections is high in people suffering from the condition.
Often an ultrasound of the brain is done in the early stages of the diagnosis to plan for treatments. A bone marrow transplant is the one known cure for people suffering from the genetic disorder. Medical professionals also recommend the use of a popular medication available in its generic name Hydroxyurea. Hydroxyurea helps patients reduce complications and mortality to manage the symptoms in a better way. Patients must also take precautions to ensure the treatment is effective by scheduling regular checkups, preventing infections by maintaining basic hygiene and making healthy changes in one’s diet. It is also important to stay hydrated as water helps maintain optimum blood pressure levels to ensure a steady flow throughout the body.