Low Oxygen Levels
Acute chest syndrome commonly presents with low oxygen levels that accompany other symptoms. General low oxygen levels happen because of a few processes that occur in sickle cell anemia patients. The red blood cells in individuals who have sickle cell anemia have hemoglobin that is irregularly shaped and does not function to carry oxygen. The presence of these abnormal red blood cells causes a decrease in the production of healthy red blood cells that can carry oxygen. In addition, the red blood cells in sickle cell anemia patients have a much shorter lifespan at sixteen days than red blood cells in healthy individuals, which live for 120 days. Both mechanisms result in a low number of red blood cells circulating in the blood. When there are less red blood cells to transport oxygen, there will be a decreased oxygen levels in the blood. The clumping of sickle cells in the lungs that occurs in acute chest syndrome has a compounding effect on top of the other oxygen reducing factors of sickle cell anemia. It is this combination that makes the blood oxygen level in individuals with acute chest syndrome so abnormally low.