Sickle cell anemia is one of the most common forms of sickle cell disease, a blood disease that affects the shape of your red blood cells and ultimately makes it difficult for the cells to get through small blood vessels. When this happens, not enough oxygen is carried throughout the body, putting the person with the disease at risk of many serious medical complications and conditions. From symptoms of difficulty breathing and fatigue to complications such as stroke, serious organ damage, and heart failure, the effect of sickle cell anemia varies and requires treatment and monitoring. Aside from one rare and rarely successful cure, there are treatment options to make the disease more manageable. The disease has been extensively researched and is well-known in the medical world. Here’s what to know about sickle cell anemia…
1. Caused by Abnormal Hemoglobin
The red blood cells in your body contain two vital hemoglobin molecules, a protein that carries the oxygen through your blood to travel throughout the body. For people with sickle cell anemia, they have two copies of abnormal hemoglobin referred to as hemoglobin S. This abnormal molecule is what causes the problems within the red blood cells, rendering them unable to properly complete the process of carrying oxygen where it needs to go.
These abnormal cells are from a gene mutation that can’t be changed or fixed, though there are ways to treat the symptoms that are caused by hemoglobin S. There are also ways to be tested for this gene, both as a potential parent or for children and adults with health issues that have been undiagnosed. Confirming whether or not someone has the abnormal hemoglobin that cause sickle cell anemia is extremely important for treatment and potentially extending an otherwise shortened life span.