Sickle Cell Disease

Updated: Dec 16, 2021

Sickle cell disease is an umbrella term used to cover disorders affecting haemoglobin in the body. HbS disease, SCD, haemoglobin S disease are some of the other terms used interchangeably while referring to this disorder. While this disease is commonly heard of, not many are aware of what actually happens when one is diagnosed with this ailment.


Let’s gain a better insight into the sickle cell disease and understand its causes, symptoms and measures of prevention.


Cause:

In this condition, the red blood cells are not shaped as they should be. Red blood cells usually look like discs, but for someone with this disorder, these cells will be in the shape of a crescent moon, or a sickle (a commonly used tool on the farm). Due to this unique structure, these cells latch on to each other easily, blocking off small blood vessels. This leads to obstruction in the blood flow, leading to pain and organ damage.

Sickle cell disease is genetic and not contagious. Those diagnosed with this disorder usually inherit two sickle cell genes – one from each parent.


Symptoms:

The signs and symptoms of sickle cell disorder are notably visible in early childhood. Low count of red blood cells in the body, low immunity causing repeated infections and occasional episodes of pain are some of the first visible symptoms. These symptoms stay common across all people diagnosed with the disease, but their severity varies from person to person.


Other common symptoms are:

  • Tiredness and dizziness

  • Irritability

  • Fast heartbeat

  • Paleness

  • Shortness of breath

The symptoms are aggravated due to cold, stress, dehydration or illness. If such aggravations are not tended to in time, they can lead to serious complications such as aplastic crisis, acute chest syndrome, priapism and even stroke.


Measures of Prevention

As this illness is genetic, there is no way to prevent it. In case your partner and you both have the sickle cell trait; it is advisable to consult a genetic counsellor before trying to conceive. This will help you understand the risks of having a child with sickle cell disease and consider other reproductive alternatives too.


 

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