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Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited form of anaemia (deficiency of red cells or of haemoglobin in the blood) in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.

Under normal conditions, the human red blood cells are round and flexible, moving easily through your blood vessels. But in sickle cell anaemia, the red blood cells are sticky, rigid, and shaped like crescent moons.

Image source: Kidshealth

Those crescent moon shaped red cells, can get stuck in small vessels. This slows down blood flow and oxygen distribution all over the body.

How is sickle cell anaemia inherited?

This is simply explained as the inheritance of a sickle cell gene from both the mother and the father, such that the child has two sickle cell genes.

This gene can be passed to both male and female children as it affects both sexes.

However, if one sickle cell trait is inherited, the child is referred to as a “carrier”.
This simply implies that when two carriers of sickle cell trait mate, their offspring have a one in four chances of having sickle cell anaemia.

Symptoms of Sickle cell anaemia

Some symptoms that may manifest include;
1. Anaemia due to the break apart and early death of the red blood cells.
2. Fatigue due to insufficient oxygen distribution.
3. Periodic episodes of pain often called “Crises”.
4. Painful swelling of hands and feet.
5. Patients are prone to infections due to damage that might occur to the spleen. .
6. Delayed growth in infants and children as well as delay in puberty in teenagers. Vision problems. Tiny blood vessels that supply your eyes may become plugged with sickle cells. This can damage the retina — the portion of the eye that processes visual images, leading to vision problems.

Diagnosis

The state of child; that is whether he/she has a single gene trait or genes from both parents can be detected during pregnancy or soon after birth; new born blood spot test (heel prick test).

Blood tests can also be carried out at any age to check for the condition or to see if one is a carrier of the faulty gene that leads to sickle cell anaemia.

Treatment

The only known definite solution is the bone marrow transport but much risk is involved in this procedure. The emerging problems caused by the condition can be managed.

For example:
1. Painful episodes can sometimes be prevented by drinking plenty of fluids and staying warm
2. Pain can often be treated with ordinary painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, although sometimes treatment with stronger painkillers in hospital may be necessary
3. The risk of infections can be reduced by taking daily antibiotics (as prescribed by your doctor and ensuring you’re fully vaccinated.

Source: CDC and Mayo Clinic

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