What is Sickle Cell?
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that contain mostly hemoglobin* S, an abnormal type of hemoglobin. Sometimes these red blood cells become sickle-shaped (crescent shaped) and have difficulty passing through small blood vessels.When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, less blood can reach that part of the body. Tissue that does not receive a normal blood flow eventually becomes damaged. This is what causes the complications of sickle cell disease.
The sickle cells also block the flow of blood through vessels resulting in lung tissue damage (acute chest syndrome), pain episodes (arms, legs, chest and abdomen), stroke and priapism (painful prolonged erection). It also causes damage to most organs including the spleen, kidneys and liver.
There are several types of sickle cell disease. The most common are: Sickle Cell Anemia (SS), Sickle-Hemoglobin C Disease (SC), Sickle Beta-Plus Thalassemia and Sickle Beta-Zero Thalassemia.
Sickle cell conditions are inherited from parents in much the same way as blood type, hair color and texture, eye color and other physical traits.
Health maintenance for patients with sickle cell disease starts with early diagnosis, preferably in the newborn period.
Treatment of complications often includes antibiotics, pain management, intravenous fluids, blood transfusion and surgery all backed by psychosocial support. There is currently no universal cure for sickle cell disease.For More information visit www.sicklecelldisease.org.