Sickle Cell Disease

Marina Ramos

Causes

Sickle cell disease, or SCD, is a condition where blood cells are curved in shape instead of round. Blood cells are supposed to be smooth, round, and flexible so they can easily move through the blood. Sickle-shaped blood cells, because of their stiffness and curved shape, cannot move through the blood as easily and can get stuck and block blood flow. this can cause pain, infections and, sometimes, organ damage and strokes. SCD is inherited. Sometimes a gene can mutate and not work properly. A baby has to inherit a gene change for sickle cell from both parents to have SCD. If a baby inherits SCD from only one parent then they are just a carrier of the sickle cell trait.

Symptoms/ characteristics

All babies have a newborn screening test for SCD. Newborn screening checks for serious but rare and mostly treatable conditions at birth. It includes blood, hearing and heart screening. With newborn screening, SCD can be found and treated early. Some children with SCD may be generally healthy, while others may need special care. The most common health problems related to SCD are: Acute chest syndrome, anemia, hand-foot syndrome, different infections, pain episodes, splenic crisis, stroke, and vision problems.

Treatment

There is no widely available cure for SCD. But a small number of children with SCD have been cured through stem cell transplant. Stem cells are cells that can develop into many different kinds of cells in the body. They serve as a repair system for the body. Stem cells are found in bone marrow. Stem cells also are found in umbilical cord blood, the blood in the umbilical cord and placenta. This blood can be collected after the umbilical cord is cut at birth. In a stem cell transplant for SCD, stem cells taken from a healthy person are put into a person with SCD. This procedure is very risky and can have serious side effects, including death.

Life expectancy

A person with sickle cell disease will most likely live forty to fifty years.

3 important facts

  1. A baby born with sickle cell disease may be generally healthy or he/she may need special care throughout his life.