Sickle cell Anemia or Sickle cell disease is a part of a group of genetic blood cell disorders that is inherited from parents who are carriers of this particular gene mutation. This disease causes a transformation of red blood cells from a circular shape to a sickle-like shape. Hence the name. While it may not sound too serious, the change in shape changes the way these blood cells move within the body. Restricted movement of blood cells leads to a restricted supply of blood and ultimately, a restricted supply of oxygen. This can lead to major health issues and depending on the severity, even death. Some of these include excessive pain, organ failure, stroke, and even blindness.
A sickle cell test is a blood test which identifies the shape of the patient’s red blood cells, thus, identifying whether or not they have this disease. It has now been included as a part of the list of tests conducted on newborn babies in the U.S. However, this does not mean that this test is functional only on babies. Adults who may not have been screened at birth can also get this test done to identify whether or not they have this disease.
This test is extremely important as it helps your doctor diagnose your problems and give better solutions. Sickle Cell Disease patients are susceptible to various infections, especially when they are babies. Hence, knowing that someone has this disease makes it easier for doctors to treat it.
There are no pre-conditions or preparations required for this test. However, if you are an adult getting tested then you may not get the same within ninety days of receiving blood externally. Blood transfusion can change the composition of haemoglobin you have and hence, make it difficult for the test to identify whether or not you have the disease.
The test is similar to a simple blood test. The nurse or doctor ties a band on your arm and then removes blood via a puncture. For a baby, they use a special tool instead of an injection to make a puncture in its heel and extract the blood.
The test is an extremely simple procedure. There are no risks involved. One can drive themselves home after the test as well. In rare cases, there may be bouts of lightheadedness. But this is extremely rare and is normally caused when the patient is already weak or undergoing some other issue.
The test results are simple to understand. It helps the doctor identify if you have one or both abnormal sickle cell genes. If you just have one of them, then you shall be diagnosed as having the sickle cell trait. If you have both, then you’ll mostly be diagnosed as having sickle cell disease. The doctor will check on the symptoms and order follow up tests to determine the severity of the disease.