What Is Sickle Cell

September is Sickle Cell Awareness month.  I would like to share some information about the disease.  I’m am a Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) patient.  SCD has been a big part of my life since birth.  My first hospitalization was at two months.  I, like many other patients, have been in and out of the hospital my entire life.  SCD is disease that has abnormalities in the oxygen-c1aa6142697cca30bf5c8ce248bc7537c (1)arrying protein hemoglobin, found in red blood cells which causes the shape of red blood cells to change and become crescent-shaped.  The three main types of SCD are; SS (most severe), SC and Beta Thalassemia.  The cells die early, leaving a shortage of healthy red blood cells (sickle cell anemia), and can block blood flow causing pain (sickle cell crisis). Sickle Cell is a genetic disease, passed from parent to child.  Because of its hereditary nature, most hospitals test for sickle cell before an infant goes home from the hospital, sometimes diagnosis is also possible during pregnancy.  For a couple both having sickle cell trait, there is a 25% chance your child will have sickle cell or 50% chance that your child will be born with the trait.   If both parents have sickle cell disease,  all of their children will have SCD.  Children with SCD may grow and develop more slowly than their peers because of anemia.   Dizziness, fatigue, inflamed fingers or toes, pallor, shortness of breath,  joint complications, leg ulcers, liver complications, gallstones and strokes are some other complications.  A stroke occurs when blood flow is blocked to a part of the brain.  When this happens, brain cells can be damaged or the patient can die.  In SCD, a clinical stroke means that a person shows outward signs that something is wrong.  The symptoms depend upon what part of the brain is affected.  Symptoms of stroke may include:  weakness of an arm or leg on one side of the body, trouble speaking, walking, or understanding, loss of balance, and a severe headache.  As many as 24 percent of people with hemoglobin SS and 10 percent of people with hemoglobin SC may suffer a clinical stroke by age 45.  In children, clinical stroke occurs most commonly between the ages of 2 and 9, but recent prevention strategies have lowered the risk.   As in other chronic diseases, people with SCD may feel sad and frustrated at times.  The limitations that SCD can impose on a person’s daily activities may cause them to feel isolated from others.  Sometimes they become depressed.  People with SCD may also have trouble coping with pain and fatigue, as well as with frequent medical visits and hospitalizations.  Pregnancies in women with SCD can be risky for both the mother and the baby.  Mothers may have medical complications including:  infections, blood clots, high blood pressure and increased pain episodes.  Expectant moms with SCD are also at higher risk for:  miscarriages, premature births, “Small-for-dates babies” and underweight babies.  For more information on sickle cell disease, please visit the website below:  http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca.