Recognize Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell disease is a genetic illness wherein the oxygen-carrying red blood cells of the body are deformed and shaped like a sickle instead of the normal rounded shape. Their shape and rigidity makes it difficult for them to pass through blood vessels, thus distribution of oxygen in the body becomes difficult. When sickle cells rupture, sickle cell anemia occurs. This leads to various complications with symptoms ranging from paleness and fatigue to heart attacks. Here is how to recognize sickle cell anemia:

Blood test. You could know whether you have sickle cell anemia by going to the hospital and having your blood checked. Doctors would take a sample of your blood and test it using hemoglobin electrophoresis. This test makes use of electrical currents to separate normal hemoglobin from abnormal ones. These would then be classified under different categories, and if you have hemoglobin S or hemoglobin D, you have sickle cell disease and are at risk of anemia.

Prenatal tests. Babies in the womb may be tested to predict whether they would acquire sickle cell diseases. This is done by taking samples of fetal cells and testing the DNA for the gene, which produces sickle-shaped blood cells. This ensures the earliest possible detection and treatment of the disease.

Newborn screening test. In most states, babies are required to undergo tests as soon as they are born. One of these tests is a blood test for sickle-cell disease in infants. If your baby is not automatically given this test, ask for one, especially if you and your spouse are carrying the gene for sickle-cell disease.

Tiredness. Fatigue is a symptom of sickle cell anemia. This is caused by the lack of oxygen in body tissues due to sickle-shaped blood cells. If you're experiencing this symptom regularly, seek medical advice.

Physical symptoms. You may look pale, and you may have pale linings at your eyes and mouth. You may have jaundice or yellowness in your skin and eyes. Your legs may also have ulcers or big sores on the skin of your legs.

Unusual symptoms. If you are constantly experiencing illnesses such as stomachaches, coughs, fevers, infections, and swelling fingers and toes, you may have sickle-cell anemia. You may also experience dizziness and difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and may hear a ringing in your ears.

Complications. Sickle-cell anemia may result in problems with the heart. You may experience a rapid heart rate and pulmonary hypertension, which may lead to a heart attack. You may also have problems with your liver and spleen, which are responsible for removing damaged blood cells. It may also cause strokes, meningitis and pneumonia and you may have chest pains and difficulty breathing. Your blood vessels will have clots, and there will be inflammation, pain and tissue damage. Your immune system may also weaken. Pregnant mothers may have spontaneous abortion, pre-eclampsia and deformities in their unborn child.

Sickle cell anemia is a serious matter, which must be given immediate medical attention. If you're experiencing these symptoms or you have relatives that have sickle-cell disease, don't waste time and seek medical attention now.


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