Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary form of anemia. It is a disorder of blood cells characterized by inadequacy of healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to different parts of body.
In the normal process, the healthy round red blood cells move through different small blood vessels in the body to supply oxygen to every body part. But in a person with sickle cell disease, the red blood cells become sickle shaped, hard and sticky. As a result, they get stuck in the small blood vessels while carrying oxygen and block the pathway. Also, their life span becomes short and they die early within 10 to 20 days, while normal red blood cells have a life span of 120 days. This causes constant shortage of red blood cells and hence anemia.
Cause of sickle cell anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder that a baby is born with. It is present at birth and occurs when the baby gets two sickle cell genes, one each from parents.
Risk factor for sickle cell anemia
The risk for a baby to be born with sickle cell anemia is high if both parents are having a sickle cell gene.
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia
The signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia change from time to time and vary from person to person. The most common complaints of patient include:
- Anemia: Due to short life span of sickle cells, there is always a shortage of red blood cells that causes anemia.
- Constant fatigue: Due to improper supply of oxygen to various body parts, patient complains of all time fatigue.
- Periodic episodes of pain: When sickle cells block the blood flow in blood vessels, there occurs pain in chest, joints, bones or abdomen. The pain may last for few hours or days and varies in intensity.
- Swelling in hands and feet: Due to blockage of blood vessels, swelling may occur over hands and feet that is mostly associated with pain.
- Frequent episodes of infection: Sickle cells can damage spleen (infection fighting organ of our body) resulting in increased frequency of infections.
- Delay in growth: The main function of the red blood cells is to supply oxygen and nutrients to various body parts. But inadequacy of healthy and normal red blood cells hampers this function and result in delayed growth in infants, children and teenagers.
If left untreated, sickle cell anemia can be a cause for following life-threatening complications
- Stroke: If sickle cells block the blood flow to brain, stroke can occur with symptoms like seizures, difficulty speaking, unconsciousness and weakness or numbness in arms.
- Acute chest syndrome: If sickle cells block the blood vessels in the lungs, acute chest syndrome can occur with symptoms like pain in chest, difficulty breathing and fever.
- Pulmonary hypertension: Blood pressure in lungs can raise causing symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath.
- Organ damage: Due to inadequate blood supply, there can be fatal damage to organs like kidney, liver etc.
- Blindness: Blockage of blood vessels to the eye can cause blindness.
How is sickle cell anemia diagnosed?
The diagnosis of sickle cell anemia is usually made soon after the birth of the baby through a blood sample. A simple blood test can check the presence of the defective form of hemoglobin (hemoglobin S) that signifies sickle cell anemia.
Treatment for sickle cell anemia
Treatment for sickle cell anemia involves symptomatic relief to the patient depending upon the symptoms as they arise.
- Pain-relieving medications: Pain killers are given to the patient to relieve pain during a sickle cell crisis.
- Antibiotics: Children are given antibiotics from 2 months age to prevent any kind of life-threatening infection like pneumonia.
- Hydroxyurea: Hydroxyurea can reduce the frequency of hospitalization, blood transfusions and painful crises by stimulating production of fetal hemoglobin.
- Blood transfusion: In some patients, transfusion of healthy red blood cells can also reduce the painful crisis and other effects of sickle cells. The procedure involves separation of red blood cells from the blood of a healthy donor and transfusing these healthy red blood cells to the patient. Thisincrease the number of normal red blood cells in circulation and help in relieving conditions like anemia, stroke etc.
Is there any cure for sickle cell anemia?
As blood cells are produced by bone marrow, the only cure for sickle cell anemia is bone marrow transplant, also known as stem cell transplant. Bone marrow transplant involves replacement of the affected bone marrow with the healthy bone marrow from donor. In most cases, the donor is a sibling or family member that is a closest matching donor to prevent organ rejection.
(HYPERLINK TO BONE MARROW TRANSPLANT)
Can everyone undergo bone marrow transplant?
As there are many risks involved with bone marrow transplant, the procedure is recommended only to people, usually children, who face significant symptoms and problems associated with sickle cell anemia. Also, it is usually reserved for children below 16 years of age as risks increase with age and is more for people older than 16 years.
In other cases, regular check-up with the doctor and religious medication follow-up can save the patient from crisis or complications of sickle cell anemia. For babies below the age of 2 years, frequent visits to a doctor is recommended while in children older than 2 years and adults with sickle cell anemia, once a year visit to the doctor is recommended. Other than this, following symptoms require immediate visit to the doctor:
- Unexplained episodes of severe pain in any part or organ of the body
- Swelling in the hands, feet or abdomen
- High fever
- Pale skin, nail beds or whites of the eyes etc.
Whom to trust for bone marrow transplant?
As transplant is a complex process, it should be performed by an expert team.
With MedTours Global, your health is priority:
- Our associated hospitals have best infrastructure, latest transplant technology and techniques to perform successful bone marrow transplant procedure
- The team of surgeons are experienced and have performed numerous bone marrow transplants successfully
- High transplant survival rates
- End to end services including pre and post-transplant care
- Cost of treatment is far less as compared to transplant expenditure in other countries
Why MedTours Global?
- We are associated with the best hospitals globally having the emergency infrastructure, fully equipped with the latest technologies and techniques to overcome from every emergency condition.
- Our team of doctors are highly experienced in ‘Emergency Patient Management’ and work together to save the patient.
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- Rehabilitation programs are organized to assist complex surgery patients.
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- Cost of treatment is quite less as compared to other service providers.
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