Sickle Cell Disease – What is it?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle cell disease affects about 100,000 people in the United States.

Despite its prevalence, this condition is frequently misunderstood. Understanding the symptoms of sickle cell disease and the treatment options can help patients and their loved ones better manage their symptoms. Here is what you need to know about SCD.


What is it?

Sickle cell disease is a genetic illness that causes oxygen-carrying red blood cells to malfunction.

SCD causes red blood cells to become hard and sticky, resembling a C-shaped farm tool known as a “sickle.” The sickle cells die early, resulting in a chronic lack of red blood cells. They also get caught and obstruct the blood flow when they travel through small blood vessels.

Pain, and other symptoms of sickle cell disease, are caused by this obstruction of blood flow.

Patients with sickle cell disease, often known as sickle cell anemia, will have a lifelong deficiency of red blood cells.


Am I at Risk?

Individuals are born with the disease, which they receive from both parents. If a person does not have sickle cell disease at birth, they cannot ‘catch’ it from someone who does. They also cannot develop the disease later in life if they do not have it at birth.

Sickle cell disease is tested for at birth in all 50 states, and parents are notified if their child has the condition. Individuals who know they have a family history of sickle cell disease may be eligible for prenatal screening.


Signs and Symptoms

When a person is born with sickle cell disease, symptoms may not appear until they are about six months old.

While the type and severity of symptoms vary from person to person, the following are the most typical signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease:

  • Chest, back, and joint pain
  • Inflamed fingers or toes
  • Yellow skin or yellow in the whites of eyes
  • Dizziness, fatigue, low oxygen in the body


Treatment Options

While there is no cure for sickle cell disease currently, there are several successful preventative strategies.

Among them are:

  • Immunizations that protect against infections
  • Proper hydration and nutrition
  • Avoidance of situations that are known to cause sickle-related pain.

It is important to keep in mind that not all therapies are suited for every sickle cell disease patient. Patients and their families should discuss the risks and advantages of each treatment option with their doctors.

The most widespread misunderstanding about sickle cell disease is that it cannot be managed effectively. While the disease cannot be cured, breakthroughs in the study of the disease and the avoidance of its complications have revolutionized the lives of people who suffer from it today and will continue to improve the prospects of future generations affected by sickle cell disease.


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