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What is Sickle Cell Anemia? How Can it Be Cured?

PHD - Science
Geneticist, mumbai  •  28 years experience
What is Sickle Cell Anemia? How Can it Be Cured?

Have you heard of a health condition in which there are insufficient red blood cells in your body for carrying sufficient oxygen to all parts of the body? This condition is called sickle cell anemia and it is an inherited form of anemia. Usually, the red blood cells in your body are round and flexible and move through the blood vessels easily. In case of sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become sticky and rigid. They are shaped like crescent moon or sickle. Because of the irregular shape, these can get stuck in the blood vessels, which slows down the blood flow.

Treatment
The only potential cure of sickle cell anemia is a bone marrow transplant. Other treatment measures focus on easing the symptoms and preventing further complications. The various treatment modes are as follows:

  1. Antibiotics: Children with sickle cell anemia can start taking antibiotic penicillin by the age of two months. This prevents infections like pneumonia. Even in the case of adults with sickle cell anemia, antibiotics help in fighting certain infections.
  2. Pain-relieving medications: Several over-the-counter pain relief medications may be prescribed by a doctor for reducing pain during a sickle cell crisis. Hydroxyurea is another type of medicine, which helps in reducing the frequency of pain. 
  3. Vaccinations: Childhood vaccinations should be given for preventing the disease in children. These vaccinations are more important for children already affected with sickle cell anemia as they are more prone to infections. Vaccines such as the annual flu shot and the pneumococcal vaccine are important for adults suffering from sickle cell anemia. 
  4. Blood transfusions: In case of a red blood transfusion, red blood cells are removed from a supply of blood that is donated. The donated cells are intravenously given to a sickle cell anemia patient. Blood transfusion increases the number of normal red blood cell count in circulation, giving relief to anemia. Regular blood transfusions are important for children with sickle cell anemia, who are highly prone to stroke. 
  5. Stem cell transplant: A stem cell transplant or a bone marrow transplant involves the replacement of the bone marrow affected by sickle cell anemia with a healthy bone marrow given by a donor. This is a risky procedure and is only recommended for patients with sickle cell anemia at a chronic stage.

It is recommended for you to consult a doctor on experiencing any symptom of sickle cell anemia. This is a dangerous health condition and requires proper diagnosis and treatment before it gets out of your hands.

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