Living with Sickle Cell
What is Sickle Cell?
Sickle cell disease is an inherited life-threatening blood disorder that affects the red blood cells. These sickled cells carry less oxygen to parts of the body and when these misshaped cells are clumped together causes pain crisis. It affects African Americans, Hispanics, and many more ethnic groups.
Sickle cell disease is quietly devastating. Its symptoms can occur in any part of the body. Persons with the disease extremely vulnerable to infections. They may also suffer from jaundice deterioration of joints, kidney infections, recurrent severe pain episodes, strokes, blindness and a shortened life expectancy. Sickle cell disease can lead to other ailments. These include strokes, kidney and liver problems. There is no cure.
Signs and Symtoms
Signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia often don’t appear until an infant is at least 4 months old and may include:
Anemia. Sickle cells are fragile. They break apart easily and die, leaving you without a good supply of red blood cells. Red blood cells usually live for about 120 days before they die and need to be replaced. But sickle cells die after an average of less than 20 days. This results in a lasting shortage of red blood cells (anemia). Without enough red blood cells in circulation, your body can’t get the oxygen it needs to feel energized. That’s why anemia causes fatigue.
Episodes of pain. Periodic episodes of pain, called crises, are a major symptom of sickle cell anemia. Pain develops when sickle-shaped red blood cells block blood flow through tiny blood vessels to your chest, abdomen, and joints. Pain can also occur in your bones. The pain may vary in intensity and can last for a few hours to a few weeks. Some people experience only a few episodes of pain. Others experience a dozen or more crises a year. If a crisis is severe enough, you may need to be hospitalized.
Hand-foot syndrome. Swollen hands and feet may be the first signs of sickle cell anemia in babies. The swelling is caused by sickle-shaped red blood cells blocking blood flow out of their hands and feet.
Frequent infections. Sickle cells can damage your spleen, an organ that fights infection. This may make you more vulnerable to infections. Doctors commonly give infants and children with sickle cell anemia vaccinations and antibiotics to prevent potentially life-threatening infections, such as pneumonia.
Delayed growth. Red blood cells provide your body with the oxygen and nutrients you need for growth. A shortage of healthy red blood cells can slow growth in infants and children and delay puberty in teenagers.
Vision problems. Some people with sickle cell anemia experience 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.
Sickle Cell Association of Texas
Marc Thomas Foundation- Austin, Texas
The Marc Thomas Foundation serves families with sickle cell in Central Texas, San Antonio, and Texas Gulf Coast.
They provide numerous services to children, adults, and families in Central Texas, San Antonio, the Texas Gulf Coast and other areas affected with sickle cell disease and those carrying sickle cell trait. They provide education, research awareness, outreach, support group meetings, assistance and numerous other services.
If you would like to volunteer, get information about events, donate or learn more about Sickle Cell the Marc Thomas Foundation is a great resource.
Resource Information to learn more:
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