Sickle cell anemia is a severe hereditary disease of the red blood cells. Red blood cells in healthy individuals are round in shape, while the red blood cells in individuals with sickle cell anemia are irregularly shaped. This happens due to the hemoglobin in the red blood cells that becomes defective. The defective hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S, ends up taking the place of healthy hemoglobin, called hemoglobin A. As a result, over time the red blood cells become shaped like crescent moons instead of round. Sickle cells are notorious for clogging blood vessels and cutting off the supply of oxygen to organs and other tissues. Sickle cell anemia is a hereditary disease, which means it is passed through genes from parent to child when both parents have the sickle cell trait.
This type of anemia is very serious and can lead to numerous life-threatening complications. Reveal some of these now.
Acute Chest Syndrome
The leading cause of death in sickle cell anemia patients is a complication called acute chest syndrome, which can be best described as a combination of symptoms that happen when the defective red sickle cells become clustered together in the lungs. This can occur due to a possible underlying infection or excessive oxidative stress in individuals with sickle cell anemia. Acute chest syndrome results in a decrease in oxygen saturation and excessive inflammation in the lungs that can be life-threatening. Common symptoms include shortness of breath, fever, excessive sputum production, tightness in the chest, low oxygen levels, cough, and excruciating pain. It can be difficult to distinguish acute chest syndrome from pneumonia, as they both present the same way on an x-ray. To treat this condition, antibiotics and intravenous fluids will be given. Oxygen will also be given if oxygen levels appear to be too low. In some cases, a blood transfusion may also be needed to replenish the patient’s supply of healthy and fully functional red blood cells.
Uncover more sickle cell anemia complications now.