Sickle cell anemia, the most common form of sickle cell disease, is a hereditary disorder that affects a person’s red blood cells, which are normally round and smooth and easily move through the blood stream. People with this disease have crescent-shaped cells that are hard and sticky, making it difficult for the cells to move as they should. Sickle cell disease can cause pain and organ damage.
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia vary in each person. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, these can include the following symptoms of anemia:
- Shortness of breath
- Coldness in the hands and feet
- Paler than normal skin or mucous membranes (the tissue that lines your nose, mouth, and other organs and body cavities)
- Jaundice (a yellowish color of the skin or whites of the eyes)
In addition, those who have sickle cell anemia can experience sudden pain that affects the bones, lungs, abdomen, and joints. This is called a sickle cell crisis. Acute pain can last from hours to a week or more. Chronic pain can continue for months.
The Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that each year, 1 in 500 African Americans is born with sickle cell. Eight to ten percent of African Americans are affected by the sickle cell trait, according to the American Society of Hematology.
A blood test can determine if you have sickle cell disease. Treatments can help ease pain, prevent infections, organ damage and stroke, as well as control complications. They can include medications and blood transfusions. With the right knowledge and care, those suffering from the disease can live a productive life.