Signs and Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia vary from person to person and do tend to change overtime. It affects almost every area of the body and is considered life threatening if not promptly attended to bby a doctor. Though Sickle Cell Anemia is usually diagnosed in infancy, it is considered time to seek medical help if your child starts to develop/display any of the following symptoms or problems:
1. Anemia- Here, the sickle cells break apart easily and die (usually in 10-20 days), leaving the body without enough red blood cells.
2. Painful Episodes- aka 'crises' are a major symptom of sickle cell anemia. This pain could occur in the bones, joints, abdomen and chest and could last anywhere from a few minutes to even days. The pain could be mild or severe and when it becomes too unbearable, hospitalization could very well be needed.
3. Frequent Infections- Sickle Cells can damage the spleen, leaving the body more vulnerable to infections.
4. Delayed Growth- A shortage of healthy red blood cells can slow growth in infants and children and delay puberty in teenagers.
5. Vision Problems: Tiny blood vessels that supply blood to the eyes may become blocked with sickle cells and this can damage the retina leading to vision problems.
6. Pale skin or nail beds
7. Yellow tint to the skin or whites of the eyes.
8. Painful Swelling of hands and feet- This is caused when the sickle cells block blood flow to the hands and feet.
9. Signs or symptoms of stroke.
10. Fever- People with SCA have an increased risk of infection and fever can be the first sign of that.
A blood test can check for Hemoglobin S (the defective form of hemoglobin that underlies SCA). In children and babies, the blood sample is usually collected from a finger or heel while in adults, blood is drawn from a vein in the arm. If the test is negative, this means there is no sickle gene present but if it is positive, further tests will be carried out to determine if there are 1 or 2 sickle genes present. In other words, the test will show whether a person has just the sickle cell trait (one sickle gene) or has sickle cell anemia (two sickle genes).
I am not aware of any research that suggests it is possible for the symptoms of SCA to be confused with any other disease so if your child or someone you know starts to display any of these signs or symptoms, please see a doctor immediately.
What I try to do with my articles on Sickle Cell Issues is to present the disease not just from a research or medical point of view but from a personal one. I know that Sickle Cell primarily affects only people of African, African-American, Carribean, Indian, Mediterranean and Hispanic descent so if you do not belong to any of these cultural backgrounds or have relationships with any, it may be hard for you to care or even be interested in these issues. However, I believe that in life no knowledge is truly wasted and one may never know when something you read here or elsewhere will resonate with some aspect of your life.
Watching my only brother literally deteriorate before my eyes and fearing that the same fate will befall my sister is a fear that I wish on no one. This blog gives me a way of escaping those realities and affords me the chance to connect with anyone who cares to learn or is going through a similar situation. I appreciate everyone who reads, leaves comments and keeps coming back to the blog for more content; whether on Sickle Cell Issues or on any of the other topics I write about.