Sickle Cell Anemia is one of the most common genetic disorders in the U.S. In fact 1 in 1000 Hispanic births are children with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). This is an inherited form of anemia, where there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout the body.
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Red blood cells are supposed to be round and move around easily through your blood vessels. When you have SCD, your blood cells are shaped like crescent moons, getting stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body. Many children don’t show signs and symptoms of the disease until they’re at least 4 months.
What to Expect?
- Anemia-without enough red blood cells in circulation, your body isn’t getting the oxygen it needs to feel energized.
- Pain-You could have pain in your chest, abdomen, bones and joints. The pain can vary from a few episodes of pain to severe pain.
- Infections-The spleen is an organ that fights disease and when you have SCD, it damages your spleen and it can’t protect you from infections too well.
- Swollen hands and feet- This happens when the red blood cells cut the flow of oxygen to your hands and feet.
- Eyes- The same thing happens to your vision; the red blood cells that supply oxygen to your eyes can get stuck with sickle cells, damaging your retinas.
- Growth-A shortage of healthy red blood cells can slow the growth of a child and even delay puberty because these bad cells are blocking the nutrients and oxygen that their bodies need.
Cases vary from person to person and there is treatment to relieve the pain associated with SCD, but a bone marrow or cord blood transplant is the best option. The transplant replaces diseased blood-forming cells with healthy ones. Chemotherapy is used to destroy the bad blood cells and are then replaced with bone marrow from a donor. Most of these transplants take place for children because it’s too toxic for adults. The cells that are donated usually come from a healthy brother or sister.