World Sickle Cell Day

19th June, 2016

Sickle cell disease is one of the most prevalent and dangerous blood disorder known. It affects millions of people worldwide in a year and causes widespread anemia. It is important to known about this blood disorder in order to help prevent it as well as to help in raising awareness about its diagnosis and treatment.

Sickle cell disease causes the red blood cell in the blood to get deformed and become sickle-shaped. This causes the cells to get destroyed prematurely and result in anemia. These damaged sickle-shaped red blood cells can last for only 10-20 days instead of the 120 days life-period of the normal and healthy red blood cells which are round in shape. These damaged blood cells may also clump together and attach to the inner walls of the blood vessels (arteries) and affect the blood supply in it. This results in intense pain and permanent brain damage and heart failure as well. Lack of sufficient blood supply may also affect the other vital organs such as the lungs, kidneys, liver, bones and the spleen. Intense and sudden pain caused in this disorder is an emergency situation is commonly called an ‘acute sickle cell crisis’. Dehydration and infections are common triggers that can cause acute sickle cell crisis.

Sickle cell is most prevalent among Africans and African-Americans as well as other races such as Indians, Caribbean, Mediterranean, and from the South and Central American countries.

Scientists and medical professionals have identified genetic mutation in the gene for hemoglobin to be the cause of production of the sickle hemoglobin. The oxygen released from the sickle-shaped red blood cells does not get dissipated normally and tends to stick together and form into long tubes inside the cells. These damaged cells give rise to the symptoms of the sickle cell disease. It is a congenital (birth) disorder and is not contagious in nature in any way.

Sickle cell disease is easily identified by the anemia and the intense pain caused in it. The person may experience chest pain and breathing problems. Joint pain and arthritis along with bone infractions and blockage of blood to the liver and spleen are also seen. It may also result in severe infections and even stroke. The severe pain is mostly felt in the abdomen, legs, arms, back and the chest region. If left untreated for long this disease may also cause permanent and irrecoverable damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, liver, spleen and bones as well.

The doctors usually perform a blood test initially to check the sample for the shape of the red blood cells under a powerful microscope. Sickle cell disease is mostly diagnosed by a hemoglobin electro-phoresis, an advanced blood test that measures the amount of the abnormal sickle-shaped cells in the blood. This helps to determine if the patient is a carrier of the disease or is affected by it. Nowadays, with the advancement in medical science, prenatal testing is also being performed on a large scale worldwide by examining the DNA of the fetal cells. Newborns are also required to be tested for sickle cell disease as early and prompt treatment can decrease the risk of severe infections and other various complications considerably.

The main form of treatment of the sickle cell crisis is by administering opiate painkillers (morphine), non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics, intravenous/oral fluids as well as oxygen. Blood transfusions are also required to treat severe anemia and also to prevent strokes. It is also performed before starting the surgery.

The only cure for sickle cell disease is a stem cell transplant from a matching sibling donor.

Travcure is India’s largest and most popular medical tourism services provider and has been raising awareness about this dangerous blood disease since many years. Travcure is connected to a large network of super-specialty hospitals and clinics all over India in order to provide the best and most effective sickle cell treatment in India using the most advanced treatment methods.

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