Sunday, July 12, 2020

Sickle Cell Disease: All you need to know

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By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi |

Updated: June 27, 2020 12:09:31 pm

sickle cell disease, anaemia, indianexpress Here’s everything to know about the blood disorder. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited group of blood disorder which is genetic in nature. It is usually transferred from parents to the child during birth i.e. both the parents can be carries of SCD. Healthy RBCs are round in shape, which moves through small blood vessels and carries oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has SCD, the RBC becomes sticky and hard and start to look like C- shaped similar to that of a farm tool ‘sickle’. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of RBC, which leads to low oxygen carriers in the body, mentioned Dr Rahul Bhargava, director and head, haematology and bone marrow transplant, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram. Also, when sickle cells travels they tend to get stuck in small blood vessels and restrict the blood flow. This can cause pain in the joints, chest and other serious problems such as stroke, acute chest syndrome and infections.

Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease include:


SCD can lead to shortage of RBC which makes the patient anaemic. It can lead to less oxygen supply in the body causing fatigue.

Episodes of pain. SCD patients suffer from episodes of periodic pain. Sickle-shaped blood cells can block the flow of blood which in tiny vessels of abdomen, chest and joints, thus leading to pain.

Getty Images/Thinkstock The condition, marked by low-haemoglobin levels, is mostly triggered by iron deficiency. (Photo: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Feet and hands swelling

Sickle-shaped RBC can block then flow of blood which can cause swelling in the hands and feet.

Frequent infections

Sickle cells can damage the spleen and make the person vulnerable to diseases and infections. Vaccination is usually prescribed in childhood to keep infections at bay.

Delayed growth or puberty

RBC is the carrier of oxygen and other nutrients. With low RBC, there is no enough oxygen in the body which can slow the growth in infants and children which leads to delayed puberty in children.

Vision problems

Vision is affected when the flow of blood is affected.


SCD can lead to a lot of complication, including – Stroke, acute chest syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, organ damage, blindness, leg ulcers and more such complications.

SCD can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Parents are advised to get the screening done before conceiving as it is transmitted from parents. For newborns, the test is done in the hospitals as a routine screening. There is no single treatment for SCD patients and it varies from patient to patient on the basis the symptoms. Before starting any medication, consult a haematologist who specialises in blood disorders.

The only cure for SCD is getting a bone marrow transplant (BMT), which is a procedure to replace damaged or destroyed bone marrow with healthy bone marrow stem cells. Stem cells are easily taken from the donor and planted in the recipient. After the BMT procedure, the patient can lead a healthy and normal life.

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