Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia (uh-NEE-me-uh) is the most common form of sickle cell disease (SCD). SCD is a serious disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells. “Sickle-shaped” means that the red blood cells are shaped like a crescent.

Normal red blood cells are disc-shaped and look like doughnuts without holes in the center. They move easily through your blood vessels. Red blood cells contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin (HEE-muh-glow-bin). This protein carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Sickle cells contain abnormal hemoglobin called sickle hemoglobin or hemoglobin S. Sickle hemoglobin causes the cells to develop a sickle, or crescent, shape.

Sickle cells are stiff and sticky. They tend to block blood flow in the blood vessels of the limbs and organs. Blocked blood flow can cause pain and organ damage. It can also raise the risk for infection.

Symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Headaches
  • Coldness in the hands and feet
  • Paler than normal skin or mucous membranes (the tissue that lines your nose, mouth, and other organs and body cavities)
  • Jaundice (a yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes)
  • Sudden pain throughout the body

Treatment:

Sickle cell anemia has no widely available cure. However, treatments can help relieve symptoms and treat complications. The goals of treating sickle cell anemia are to relieve pain; prevent infections, organ damage, and strokes; and control complications (if they occur).

Blood and marrow stem cell transplants may offer a cure for a small number of people who have sickle cell anemia. Researchers continue to look for new treatments for the disease.

Infants who have been diagnosed with sickle cell anemia through newborn screening are treated with antibiotics to prevent infections and receive needed vaccinations. Their parents are educated about the disease and how to manage it. These initial treatment steps have greatly improved the outcome for children who have sickle cell anemia.

For More Information visit NHLBI – SCA.