Grace and her husband never found out they were sickle cell carriers until after the birth of their fourth child.
It was not until their daughter was 3 months old that doctors first suspected she had the condition and started to become ill.
People are risking their lives and those of their children by failing to get screened for sickle cell through prejudice or ignorance.
What is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia also known as sickle cell disease is an inherited form of anemia – a condition in which there aren’t
enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.
What are the signs and symptoms of Sickle Cell?
- Anemia: shortage of red blood cells. Without enough red blood cells, your body can’t get the oxygen it needs to feel energized causing fatigue.
- Pain Crisis: is a major symptom of sickle cell anemia. The pain develops when the sickle shaped red blood cell blocks blood flow through tine blood vessels.
Pain can also occur in your bones.
The pain varies in intensity and can last a few hours to a few weeks.
- Painful swelling of hands and feet: caused by sickle-shaped red blood cells blocking blood flow to the hands and feet.
- Frequent Infections: sickle cells can damage organs like the spleen which fight infections leaving you vulnerable to infections like pneumonia.
- Delayed Growth: Shortage of healthy red blood cells can slow growth in infants and children and delay puberty in teenagers.
Treatment of Sickle Cell
Treatment might include medications to reduce pain and prevent complications.
- Antibiotics: prevents infections like pneumonia.
- Pain Killers: relieve pain during crisis.
- Blood transfusion: increases the number of normal red blood cells in circulation helping to relieve anemia.
Management of Sickle Cell Anemia
Observing the following measures to stay healthy may avoid the complications of sickle cell anemia
- Take folic acid or supplements daily and choose a healthy diet (mainly of fruits and vegetables).
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid extreme temperatures, too hot and too cold.
- Exercise regularly, but don’t overdo it.
Sickle cell is dominant in most sub-Sahara African nations and people could be carriers without knowing their status.
To preserve your health and that of your children, talk with your doctor and do a screening for sickle cell. At birth, babies should also be screened for the sickle cell.
Before marriage and during family planning, it is advisable for couples to meet with a genetic counselor to assess your sickle cell situation.
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