(C) Sickle-Cell Anemia
Or Anemia caused by Increased Destruction of Red Blood Cells
Sickle Cell Disease, also known as SCD, the most common type of which is Sickle Cell Anemia, is a group of conditions in which the red blood cells of the body become disfigured and develop a distinct “sickle” shape, hence the name.
In a healthy individual, red blood cells are round and flexible, which facilitates their circulation throughout the body’s veins and arteries. However, patients suffering from an SCD such as Sickle Cell Anemia suffers from insufficient circulation due to the rigidity and deformity of their red blood cells. The deformed red blood cells tend to clump together and create sticky blockages which severely limit the circulatory system’s ability to diffuse blood.
As a result, patients experience pain, increased risk of infection, potential damage to organs, and even strokes. The most common symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia are:
1. Poor Eyesight
Vision disorders, including blindness, can occur when sickle cells clump and block the flow of blood in and out of the eye. Reduced blood flow to the area can cause severe damage to the optical nerve and retina.
Patients with Sickle Cell Anemia frequently experience episodes of moderate to severe pain along joints, extremities, and organs of the body. These crises are caused by clogged blood vessels and poor circulation.
3. Hand-Foot Syndrome
This condition is characterized by significant swelling of the hands and feet. Hand-Foot Syndrome, which is very painful, is typically accompanied by a fever and is caused by sickle cells clumping up and causing blockages in the blood vessels of the hands and feet which prevent blood flow from exiting the extremities.
4. Acute Thoracic Syndrome
Acute Thoracic Syndrome, or Acute Chest Syndrome, is a very serious and painful condition. It may be caused by an infection and reduced blood flow in the lungs. Typical signs and symptoms of Acute Thoracic Syndrome include fever, difficulty breathing, and what most patients describe as excruciating chest pain.
5. Splenic Sequestration
Pediatric patients with Sickle Cell Anemia can experience what is known as a Splenic Sequestration Crisis. This complication, which is life-threatening, occurs when the spleen becomes engorged with trapped blood. Splenic Sequestration is characterized by pain along the left side of the abdomen, weakness, and a rapid heartbeat. Over time, the patient’s spleen suffers from fibrosis and scarring. Splenic Sequestration is seldom seen in adults.
When clumps of sickle cells create a blockage that prevents blood flow from reaching the brain in sufficient quantities, the risk for a cerebrovascular accident increases dramatically. Strokes are characterized by a severe headache, weakness along one side of the body, and significant changes in alertness, speech, sight, and hearing.
Around the world, millions of people are currently suffering from Anemia.
Unfortunately, Anemia is a complicated condition to diagnose and treat since its roots and clinical manifestations are highly varied. In fact, Anemia often goes completely unnoticed in its earliest stages, and many patients are only diagnosed through chance when having unrelated blood work. Additionally, the specific signs and symptoms depend primarily on the speed with which the anemic state sets in.
Thankfully, the most prevalent form of Anemia, Iron Deficiency Anemia, can be easily corrected or even outright prevented through proper dietary planning and supplementation.
The importance of ensuring the body has an ample supply of dietary iron, especially during periods of high-risk such as pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence, cannot be overstated enough.
Dark leafy greens such as spinach and swiss chard, legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, beef, liver, and nuts like pistachios and almonds are fantastic sources of dietary iron.
To accurately diagnose Anemia, your doctor will consider your family history and run some very specific blood tests in order to ascertain any potential alterations to your serum levels of red blood cells and hemoglobin. The results are highly subjective and may vary from one individual to the next, depending on age, gender, physical fitness, etc.