Sickle Cell Anemia: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

Sickle cell anemia

There are many different forms of anemia that can occur in the human body and some are more curable than others.

One form of this condition is called sickle cell anemia, which occurs when the body makes red blood cells that are abnormally shaped. The shape of a person’s red blood cells is important to support proper blood flow through the blood vessels.

This article will answer the question, “What is sickle cell anemia?” and describe the disease’s causes, symptoms, and treatment options. It will also compare sickle cell anemia to other forms of anemia by pointing out the distinguishing characteristics of this inherited disorder.

What Causes Sickle Cell Anemia?

Sickle cell anemia is caused by a genetic mutation that interferes with the normal production of hemoglobin. A person with this condition has hemoglobin that leads to red, misshaped, and sticky red blood cells. This is an inherited condition in which both the mother and father must pass the genetic mutation on for their child to develop sickle cell anemia. The disease is passed between generations by autosomal recessive inheritance and can lead to many different health complications.

How Sickle Cell Anemia Differs from Other Forms of Anemia

One of the biggest differences between sickle cell anemia and other types of anemia is that it is passed down from one generation to the next. It is also most common among individuals who are Black or of African descent. Sickle cell anemia symptoms also differ from those of other types of anemia, and there is no cure for the disease. It can be managed with treatment, but serious complications can occur without regular health maintenance checkups.

Sickle Cell Anemia Symptoms

People with sickle cell anemia have red blood cells that are in the shape of crescents, which prohibits smooth movement through the blood vessels compared to normal and healthy red blood cells. Common sickle cell anemia symptoms include episodes of pain that occur when there is a blockage of blood flow and swelling of the hands and feet. The pain associated with sickle cell anemia can be very intense and last for hours, days, or weeks. People with this type of anemia often experience frequent infections, vision difficulties, abdominal swelling, fever, and a yellowish tint of the skin or the whites of the eyes. Sickle cell anemia can also lead to an increased risk of organ damage, pulmonary hypertension, stroke, leg ulcers, and blindness.  

Sickle Cell Anemia Treatment Options

Although there is no cure yet for sickle cell anemia, there are sickle cell anemia treatment options that can make the symptoms more manageable and improve quality of life. Since pain is a big part of having sickle cell anemia, it’s important to establish an effective pain management plan with an experienced doctor. It may also be necessary to take iron supplements like Fergon or receive blood transfusions to reduce the symptoms of anemia. People with sickle cell anemia should also understand what triggers their worst pain and symptoms so that those factors can be avoided as much as possible. Common triggers include excessive exercise, dehydration, high altitude, smoking cigarettes, and cold temperatures.

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