First discovered in 1910 by James B. Herrick of Chicago, this disease was associated with severe anemia and “peculiar elongated and sickle-shaped red blood corpuscles”. This being a new disease there were not many treatment options and research was slow in developing viable options for those afflicted. Today, a person diagnosed with sickle cell anemia can live a long and qualitative life by not treating the disease itself but by aggressively treating the complications associated with this disease.
These complications include body wide lack of oxygen and nutrient loss due to the fact that a sickled cell cannot hold as much oxygen. Due to their shape, the blood cells are much more fragile and they do not flow properly which can cause blockages as they log jam into different blood vessels. A person that has sickle cell anemia does not develop fully and will have stunted growth and will be frailer due to the lack of nutrients required for building a healthy body. A yellow tint to the skin or eyes may develop due to these facts. Sickled cells have a much shorter lifespan, often only living about 14 days compared to normal blood cells that live about 120 days.
Sickle cell anemia can cause a condition called sickle cell crises in which pain is felt around extremities and abdomen. This is caused by little to no flow of blood to the extremities or organs causing inflammation and swelling. An episode of sickle cell crises can last anywhere from a few days to up to a few weeks and can be severe enough to warrant hospitalization. Since sickle cell anemia is a blood disease it causes body wide damage such as bone infections, blindness, and organ damage. A stroke is also a possibility because of low oxygen to the cardiac muscles. A common blood test can determine if you have sickle cell anemia with the pathologist simply looking at the shape of the cells, and there is also genetic testing available for parents to see if they are a carrier of the gene. Amniotic fluid can be used to determine if the fetus will be affected. Life style changes are a must for a person living with sickle cell anemia. It is important to not aggravate the condition by refraining from certain activities such as scuba diving, and high altitude flight without oxygen, also sports, because it causes a need for more oxygen and nutrients than your blood cells can provide. People that do not watch their oxygen usage can experience a heat stroke and muscle breakdown due to dehydration and low oxygen.
As of right now, there are no known cures for the sickle cell anemia itself, but by aggressively treating its associated health problems such as the infections incurred that are treated by antibiotics. Another condition that can be a result of sickle cell anemia is called acute chest syndrome or ACS. Acute chest syndrome is a lung-related complication of sickle cell disease and can be life threatening. It requires emergency treatment and usually a hospital stay. The onset of this can be fatal if it is not treated immediately. Repeat occurrences can cause permanent lung damage. It is treated by supplying oxygen, antibiotic therapy, pain medications, and blood transfusions. Kidney damage can also result from sickle cell disease by causing blood