Sickle Cell Disease Facts
The term sickle cell disease refers to a family of inherited blood disorders that usually have an early childhood onset. These disorders are caused by mutations in the gene that codes for a protein called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is very important, as it allows red blood cells to transport oxygen around the human body.
People with sickle cell disease make sickle-shaped red blood cells, rather than the normal disc-shaped cells. These sickle cells die at a faster rate than normal cells, and so the abnormality can lead to a low blood count (anemia), and pain episodes caused by the cells blocking blood vessels.
The body’s tissues need oxygen in order to function and a reduction in red blood cells can lead to damaged organs. The spleen is often affected, which makes a person with a sickle cell disease more vulnerable to infection. Other symptoms include jaundice, and delayed growth and puberty.
Sickle cell disease is found all over the world, and severity can vary. Treatment for sickle cell disease usually involves treating symptoms and complications, including the use of blood transfusions, antibiotics and painkillers. Sickle cell disease has received a lot of research interest, and so new treatments will probably become available.