Encyclopedia

Sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia /SKA/ is an inherited form of anemia – a clinical condition in which there are not enough healthy red blood cells to provide enough oxygen of all body organs.

Erythrocytes are normally flexible and round in shape, enabling them to move easily through blood vessels.

In SKA, the red blood cells are altered, they are hard and sticky and shaped like a sickle or crescent.

The irregular shape of the cells creates a danger of them getting stuck in the small blood vessels. It is possible to slow down or block the flow of blood and oxygen to parts of the body.

There is no cure for most people with this condition. However, treatment can relieve pain and prevent further problems arising from the condition.

What are the symptoms?

Clinical manifestations of the disease usually do not appear until the child is 4 months old. And once they appear, they consist of:

• Anemia – sickle cells are fragile. They break down easily and die, leaving the human body without a sufficient amount of erythrocytes.

Red blood cells normally live about 120 days before they die and need to be replaced.

But sickle cells after an average of less than 20 days, resulting in a long-term lack of red blood cells /anemia/.

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Without enough red blood cells, the body’s tissues cannot get the amount of oxygen they need to function properly and have enough energy.

This is why anemia causes a feeling of fatigue.

• Pain attacks – periodic attacks of pain, called crises, are a major symptom of the disease.

Pain occurs when sickled red blood cells block blood flow through small blood vessels in the chest, abdomen, and joints. Painful sensations can also develop in the bones.

The pain can vary in intensity and usually lasts from a few hours to a few weeks.

Some people experience only a few attacks of the pain syndrome. While others have a dozen or more such crises a year.

If the crisis is too severe, the person affected may need to be hospitalized.

• Hand-foot syndrome – swelling of the hands and feet may be the first sign of SKA in babies. The swelling is due to the sickle-shaped shape of the erythrocytes, which partially blocks the blood flow to the arms and legs.

• Frequent infections – sickle cells can damage the spleen, which fights infections, making the body much more vulnerable to various infectious organisms.

Doctors often recommend that affected infants and children be given preventive antibiotics and receive additional vaccinations to prevent potentially life-threatening infections, such as pneumonia.

• Slowed growth rates;

• Visual disturbances;

Treatment of sickle cell anemia

• It is necessary to take folic acid daily and to follow a balanced diet that includes the greatest possible variety of foods.

The bone marrow needs vitamin B9 and other vitamins to speed up the blood-forming process in it. The attending physician may recommend taking folic acid in the form of a food supplement.

• It is desirable to drink a lot of water – dehydration increases the risk of sickle cell crisis. Water should be drunk evenly throughout the day, with the required minimum being 2 liters per day.

It is mandatory to increase water intake when the body is subjected to heavy physical exertion or the weather is too hot.

• Exposure to excessive temperature anomalies should be avoided. Exposure to cold or heat can trigger the crisis characteristic of the disease.

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