Sickle Cell Disease
By Stian Osteng Reisaeter
What is it?
Anemia: Sickle cells are fragile, meaning they break easily and die, leaving the person with not enough red blood cells. Sickle cells die after 20 days, instead of 120 days, leading to low oxygen in your body and often leads to fatigue.
Episodes of pain: Periodic episodes of pain occur when the sickle cells gets stuck and slows down the blood flow in the body. It can jam up tiny blood vessels in your chest, abdomen, joints and bones. The pain may vary from a few hours to a few weeks at a time. Some only has it a few times a year, while others have it regulary throughout a year with several painful episodes.
Hand-foot syndrome: Swollen hands and feet are often the first sign of sickle cell anemia in babies. It is caused by sickle cells blocking blood flow in their hands and feet.
Frequent infections: Sickle cells can damage your spleen, an organ that fights infection. This leads them more vulnerable to infections. Antibiotics and vaccinations to prevent sickle cells to attack the spleen.
Delayed growth: Red blood cells provide the body with oxygen and important nutrients that the body requires to grow. Often people with SCD have slowed down growth rate espially in infants children and delay puberty in teenagers.
The disease is life-lasting and life-ending. Today, people affected by SCD are expected to live to about 40-60 years, while back in 1973, the average lifespan was only about 14 years. Early diagnosos and regular medical care prevent complications later on in life and improve well-being.
A blood test is the only way for born infants or grown ups. There are also a posibility by taking a sample of the fluid surrounding the baby in the mother's womb to look for sickle cell gene.
- Approximately, 100'000 people have sickle cell disease, and 2 million people have sickle cell trait in The United States
- SCD is tought to have developed in areas of the world where malaria is present, because sickle cell trait provides some protection from malaria.
- SCD affects people of many ethnecities, including those of Africn, Middle Eastern, Latino, Asian, Indian, and Medittaranean decent. However, the majority affected is African-Americans.
There is still no universal cure for sickle cell disease.