Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease in which the body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells. These cells are unable to carry sufficient oxygen to parts of the body and this condition can lead to fatigue and other symptoms.
Sickle cell anemia is more common in central Africa, India and the Mediterranean, and it has been noticed that 7-13 percent of African-Americans show traits of the sickle cell while it can be as high as 45 percent among East Africans.
Causes and Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a genetic mutation that causes the body to make abnormal red blood cells that are rigid, sticky and misshapen. These cells are fragile, prone to rupturing and are hence unable to carry enough oxygen throughout the body. The symptoms associated with the condition include:
Diagnosis and Treatment of Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia can be diagnosed with simple blood tests that check for hemoglobin S — the defective form that causes the condition. Sickle cell is a recessive gene, so if only one gene is present, it causes traits alone and a fairly small chance of the disease. People with two genes have a much larger percentage of the defective hemoglobin and thus may have a higher risk of developing sickle cell anemia.
In the U.S., blood tests for sickle cell anemia are part of the routine screening done for all newborns. Expectant women can also be tested to look for the presence of these genes. Since it is a genetic condition, there is no possible preventive measure, but if you carry the sickle cell gene, a prenatal screening and proper education might be helpful to understand all the risks and possible consequences of the disease.
There is no cure for the condition and available treatment strategies help address the symptoms like pain and fatigue, prevent infections, organ damage, strokes and other complications. Some available strategies include painkillers, antibiotics, hydroxyurea, blood transfusions and bone marrow transplants.
It is also advised to:
- Avoid strenuous exercise
- Drink lots of fluids
- Avoid tight clothing
- Avoid cold temperatures
- Be up to date with vaccinations
- Avoid smoking and alcohol
- Choose a healthy diet
Your overall health can determine how sickle cell anemia manifests itself, so it is imperative to take care of yourself, exercise regularly, eat healthy foods and stay active to manage the symptoms of sickle cell anemia efficiently.
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