Complications Associated With Sickle Cell Anemia

Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a common complication seen in patients who have sickle cell anemia. It can be described as high blood pressure inside of the arteries that supply the lungs with blood. This results in the hardening and narrowing of the pulmonary arteries or the blood vessels that carry blood to the lungs from the heart. As a result, the heart has to work harder at pumping to send the correct amount of blood to the lungs. This happens more often in sickle cell anemia patients because of the impairment caused to their blood circulation. When red blood cells are broken down in the blood vessels excessively, levels of nitric oxide decrease and inflammation is increased. Nitric oxide is a substance that relaxes the blood vessels in order for the blood to flow easier. Low nitric oxide levels and excessive inflammation stimulate the small arteries of the lungs to constrict, and this mechanism causes pulmonary hypertension to occur. It is important for pulmonary hypertension to be caught early because if it goes untreated, it can easily result in heart failure for sickle cell anemia patients.

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