Sickle Cell Anemia
by Nate Howrey
What is Sickle Cell Anemia?
- Sickle cell anemia occurs in about 1 in every 365 African-American babies
- It occurs in about 1 in every 16,300 Hispanic-American births.
- About 1 in 13 African-American babies are born with the sickle cell trait
Type of Mutation and Inheritance
Symptoms and Biology of Sickle Cell Anemia
- Episodes of pain: periods of pain are a major symptom for sickle cell anemia. It happens when sickle-shaped blood cells block blood flow through small blood vessels that go to your chest, abdomen and joints. It can also hurt in your bones. The pain can last for as little as a few hours or as much as a few weeks.
- Hand-foot syndrome: these are typically the first signs of sickle cell anemia, and are swollen hands and feet. It happens due to sickle-shaped blood cells blocking the blood flow towards your hands and feet.
- Frequent infections: sickle cells can damage your spleen, which fights infections. Doctors give babies with sickle cell anemia lots of vaccinations and medicine to prevent infections.
- Delayed growth: Since red blood cells give your body oxygen and other nutrients, it makes sense that a shortage of healthy ones can slow the growth of babies and children, and delay puberty in teenagers.
- Vision problems: sickle cells can clog the tiny blood vessels in your eyes. This could potentially damage the retina.
Doctors can also test for sickle cell anemia before birth. They sample some of the amniotic fluid surrounding the fetus to look for the gene.
Different medications include:
- Antibiotics: most kids take penicillin from 2 months old until they're at least 5 years old. It prevents infections which sickle cell anemia makes people a lot more susceptible to.
- Pain-relievers: during a sickle crisis (thats what they call periods of pain), people take over-the-counter pain killers and apply heat to the infected area. If the pain is too much then doctors often prescribe extra strong pain medication.
- Hydroxyurea: this is a drug that reduces the frequency of painful crises and reduces the need for blood transfusions. The downside of this drug is that it makes you more susceptible to infections and long-term use of it can cause tumors or leukemia. Hydroxyurea is mostly used in adults with severe sickle cell anemia.
In red blood cell cell transfusions, red blood cells are removed from donated blood and given to a person with sickle cell anemia. Blood transfusions can be harmful to you because, if done regularly, it can cause excess iron to build up and damage your heart and liver.
This is basically just carrying around a tank of oxygen to help get more oxygen in your blood and make you breathe easier.
Nitric Oxide: People with sickle cell anemia have low levels of nitric oxide in their blood. Nitric oxide is the gas that keeps blood cells open. Adding nitric oxide to the blood might prevent sickle cells from clumping up and prevent crises.
Statins: Statins are medications that are normally used to lower cholesterol, but may also help reduce inflammation and could help blood flow better through blood vessels.
Celebs with Sickle Cell Anemia
Ryan Clark is a sufferer of Sickle Cell Anemia, but isn't totally immobilized by it. In fact, he can still play pro football on the Washington Redskins team. He has been sidelined a lot though because he couldn't breathe. Once, he was even sent to the hospital during a game in Denver because of the high altitude and low oxygen levels there.
Miles Davis (deceased)
Miles Davis was a legendary jazz musician. He was actually considered to be one of the most influential musicians of the twentieth century. He was a famous trumpeter, composer and bandleader. Miles Davis' contribution to music got him inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He passed away almost a decade and a half ago at the age of 65.
He was drafted for the New York Giants and he got a team record for all-time rushing and receptions