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Millions of people in the world have sickle cell anemia, sometimes called sickle cell disease, and at least 100,000 of them live here in the US. A disorder affecting the body’s red blood cells, sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder in which the body lacks the necessary number of red blood cells to function properly.
Five Facts About Sickle Cell Disease
Who gets sickle cell anemia?: Sickle cell disease is a complex disorder that primarily impacts people of African, South or Central American, Carribean, Indian, South Arabian, and Mediterranean descent.
What is it?: With sickle cell, the body’s red blood cells, which are normally round and pliant, become sticky and sickle or crescent shaped. They cause blockages and slow-downs in smaller blood vessels, and this restricts the amount of blood and oxygen circulating to various parts of the body. Additionally, sickle cells break easily, which causes more problems. Healthy red blood cells have a lifespan of approximately 120 days. A healthy body replaces them constantly at this anticipated rate. In sickle cell disease, however, the sickle cells only live for 10 to 20 days, so the body is constantly running on a short supply of red blood cells, and those it does have are misshapen and sticky. This causes the entire body to lack the appropriate amount of oxygen, causing severe and constant fatigue.
What are the effects?: Sickle cell can do much more than cause fatigue, although fatigue from sickle cell is serious enough in and of itself. Sickle cell also causes pain of varying intensity and duration due to the blockages these cells cause. The location, type, duration, frequency, and intensity of sickle cell pain varies by patient and can be as minor as a bit of joint paint or as debilitating as weeks-long episodes of severe pain throughout the body.
What are the signs and symptoms?: The initial symptoms of sickle cell anemia include hand-foot syndrome, frequent infections, pain, fatigue, delayed growth, and/or vision problems. Hand-foot syndrome refers to a telltale swelling of the hands and feet that results from sickle cells preventing blood from flowing away from the extremities. This is often one of the first signs parents and doctors see in infants with sickle cell.
How is it treated?: There is, unfortunately, no known cure for sickle cell disease, although research and awareness efforts are ongoing. In fact, September is Sickle Cell Anemia Awareness Month. You can learn more about sickle cell anemia at http://www.sicklecelldisease.org/, the website for SCDDAA, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for this devastating disease.
Children and adults with sickle cell disease can experience serious medical emergencies, and as such, should wear medical ID bracelets or other medic alert jewelry at all times. At Lauren’s Hope, any of our medical ID bracelets can be customized for sickle cell disease.
Here are some suggestions for engraving your sickle cell anemia medical ID bracelet:
SICKLE CELL ANEMIA
SICKLE CELL DISEASE
EPIPEN 4 BEES
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