Red Blood Cells: Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a genetically inherited form of anemia characterized by irregularly shaped red blood cells that do not function properly. Instead of having a round shape like healthy red blood cells, sickled red blood cells are rigid and shaped like a crescent moon. The presence of sickle cells in a patient's blood causes a crowding out of healthy red blood cells. These sickle cells have a tendency to accumulate and stick together in the blood vessels, causing an obstruction in blood flow. When this occurs, the affected individual will have episodes of severe pain due to oxygen deprivation to the tissues around the obstruction. Sickle cell anemia patients are prone to contracting infections frequently. This occurs because an organ called the spleen, which is part of the immune system, becomes overwhelmed with sickle cells and is unable to perform its usual immune defense functions as a result. The only possible cure for sickle cell anemia is a bone marrow transplant. Treatment otherwise focuses on the prevention of complications and symptom management.