Sickle Cell Anaemia: Types, Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited blood disorder that causes the red blood cells to become rigid. This causes anaemia and leads to other complications. This disorder is most common among people of African, Arabian and Indian origin .

Sickle cell anaemia is a group of disorders that affect the haemoglobin, a protein present in the red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen to cells and organs throughout the body.

Normally, the red blood cells are round which makes it easier for them to travel even through the smallest blood vessels. But in the case of sickle cell anaemia, the blood cells are sticky and shaped like sickles. These abnormally shaped red blood cells get stuck in the small blood vessels which disrupt blood flow and oxygen flow to other parts of the body. As a result, it damages the vital organs and tissues .

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The genes of the sickle cell anaemia are passed from the parents to the child. If only one parent passes the gene to the child, the child will have the sickle cell trait which means he/she will have one normal haemoglobin gene and one defective sickle cell gene . People with sickle cell trait usually don't have any symptoms, but they are the carriers of the disease.

1. Haemoglobin SS disease occurs when the child inherits copies of the haemoglobin S gene from both the parents .

2. Haemoglobin SC disease occurs when the child inherits the Hb C gene from one parent and the Hb S gene from the other .

3. Haemoglobin SB+ (beta) thalassemia is inherited with the Hb S gene .

4. Haemoglobin SB 0 (Beta-zero) thalassemia is the fourth type of sickle cell disease which has similar symptoms to Hb SS anaemia.

5. Haemoglobin SD , haemoglobin SE and haemoglobin SO are some of the rare types of sickle cell anaemia.

6. Sickle cell trait occurs when the child inherits a mutated gene (haemoglobin S) from one parent .

Diagnosis is done based on the symptoms and routine blood tests that check the presence of haemoglobin S in the blood. In children and infants, an inexpensive blood test called haemoglobin electrophoresis is done to confirm the diagnosis of the disorder. This test measures the different types of haemoglobin .

Another test is done in pregnant women to check if the unborn child has the disorder or not. Amniocentesis is a procedure in which a needle is used to take fluid from the foetus to check for the sickle cell gene .

Regular health care is essential for people with sickle cell anaemia. Good hygiene, proper eating habits, taking plenty of rest, protecting your body against infections and avoiding stress are necessary to help deal with the condition.

If you have sickle cell trait and are trying to conceive, consult a genetic counsellor who will explain the risks, possible treatments, preventive methods and reproductive options.

Also, people who are carriers of the disease should make sure that their partner or spouse isn't a carrier if they are planning to have a child in the future.

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