What is sickle cell anaemia?
Sickle cell anaemia or sickle cell disease (SCD) is a genetic disorder that affects the red blood cells(RBCs). In a healthy person’s body, the RBCs the disc-like shapes freely traverse through all kinds of blood vessels. In sickle cell anaemia, the RBCs have a sickle-like shape that causes them to get trapped in the blood vessels thereby restricting blood flow.
Is it an inherited disorder?
It can be passed on from parent to child that is why it is called an inherited disorder. The parents each have one copy of the faulty gene that causes the sickle cell trait. If the child inherits one faulty gene, they may have sickle cell trait but not the diseases whereas If the child receives both the copies of faulty genes from the parents, they are bound to have SCD.
What are the symptoms of sickle cell anaemia?
The symptoms of this disease usually show up early on and some later. Early symptoms include pale skin colour, fatigue, fussiness, frequent infections and painful swelling of limbs. The symptoms vary from person to person and can change over time. Severe symptoms require immediate medical attention.
Who are at risk?
- If both parents have the sickle cell gene
- People from countries that have endemic malaria: Africa, India, Saudi Arabia
How can one get screened for SCD?
A simple blood test or prenatal test can determine whether the parent or the child is carrying the faulty gene. Couples who have sickle cell anaemia can seek advice from a genetic counsellor. The expert can answer questions related to risk and suggest choices that are available.
Can it be prevented?
People are born with sickle cell anaemia, one cannot simply ‘catch’ it like a cold. If you have SCD, it means you’ve inherited two sickle cell genes from both parents. If someone in your family has it and you don’t, it means you have inherited one sickle cell gene. Medicines, precautions and some home remedies can help prevent complications caused by SCD.
Can complications arise when you have SCD?
Dehydration, stress, changes in temperature and illness can create a lot of health complications such as severe anaemia, delayed growth, eye problems, ulcers, heart disease, neurological disorders, gallstones, lung disease and many more.
What are the treatment options?
There are a number of treatments for SCD:
- Pain killers
- Blood transfusion
- Supplemental oxygen
- Antibiotics in case of an infection
- Rehydration via intravenous fluids
- Drugs that increase the production of fetal haemoglobin
- Bone marrow transplantation
Is there a cure?
Currently, a blood and bone marrow transplant is the only cure for some sickle cell anaemia patients.
Lifestyle management with sickle cell anaemia?
- Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Clean eating, physical activity, and sleeping well
- Limit alcohol and smoking
- Staying hydrated
- Taking medicines and supplements as directed
- Taking care of your mental health
- Going for routine medical check-ups