Sickle cell disease refers to a group of inherited red blood cell (RBC) disorders. Your blood contains red blood cells, which help it transport oxygen to your cells, tissues, and organs. When you have sickle cell disease, your red blood cells are abnormal and stickier and firmer than they should be. They also die earlier than they should, which can affect oxygen transportation in your body. But while this is scary enough, it is even more worrying that people with this condition often experience other complications. Here is a look at some examples that you should seek treatment for from the Moore Healthcare Group if you have sickle cell disease.
Pain is the leading complication of sickle cell disease and the main reason people with this condition visit the doctor. When you have SCD, your RBCs take on a sickle shape that can cause them to get stuck in your blood vessels and block blood flow. This can cause what is medically described as a pain crisis. During a pain crisis, you may experience mild to severe pain that starts suddenly and lasts for any amount of time. The pain can occur anywhere but is more common in the back, chest, feet, and hands.
Acute Chest Syndrome
ACS, or acute chest syndrome, is a serious SCD complication that can cause low oxygen levels, breathing problems, and lung injury. This life-threatening condition, which usually results from infection, occurs when misshapen cells block oxygen and blood from reaching the lungs. In most cases, it is a medical emergency that requires prompt medical attention. ACS symptoms often mimic signs of pneumonia and can include fever, breathing difficulties, coughing, and chest pain.
Sickle cell disease increases your risk of organ damage, specifically the kidney, lungs, and heart, due to reduced blood and oxygen supply. In some cases, the damage can affect multiple organs, leading to life-threatening symptoms. The symptoms will usually vary depending on the affected organ but can include swelling in the feet and hands, irregular heartbeat, and breathing difficulties.
SCD causes the untimely death of red blood cells, which results in a condition called anemia. With anemia, patients do not have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to the body’s organs. This causes them to feel tired, irritable, lightheaded, and dizzy most of the time. Other symptoms of anemia include jaundice, delayed puberty, pale skin color, slow growth, and a fast heart rate.
When SCD blocks blood flow to the eyes, specifically the retina, you may experience vision loss. The retina is the tissue layer located at the back of your eye that transmits images to the brain. If left untreated, this complication can progress suddenly and result in permanent blindness.
Learn More About Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease is a common condition that affects more than 100,000 people in the United States. Usually, symptoms of SCD begin to manifest in a patient’s first year of life at around the time they are 5 months old. These complications and symptoms can vary from one patient to the next and range from mild to severe, depending on several factors. If you have SCD, it is important that you learn more about these and other complications and how you can avoid or manage them. Contact a sickle cell disease specialist today and schedule an appointment.