Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disease that affects the red blood cells. People with the sickle cell disease have blood cells that contain the S hemoglobin, which is an abnormal type of hemoglobin. These their blood cells become sickle-shaped and have difficulty passing through small blood vessels.
The sickled shaped red blood cells live for only 10-20 days instead of 120 days that is the normal period. These damaged cells clump together and stick themselves to the wall vessels, thereby blocking blood flow.
This blockage in the flow of blood results to severe pains and permanent damage to the various organs of the body such as brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidney. A sickle cell in children is mostly found in Africans and African-Americans.
Causes of Sickle Cell
Sickle cell is caused by an abnormality in the gene for hemoglobin, which results in the production of sickle hemoglobin. In sickle cell anemia, the abnormal hemoglobin causes the red blood cells to become rigid and misshapen. This gene is passed from generation to generation from both the parents of the child.
If only one of the parents passes the sickle cell gene to the kid, that child may have the sickle cellular trait. With one normal hemoglobin gene and one defective shape of the gene, humans with the sickle cell trait have the ability to produce a normal hemoglobin and sickle cell hemoglobin.
Their blood would possibly comprise some sickle cells, but they generally don’t have signs. This also means that they are carriers of the disease and can easily pass it on to their off-springs.
Signs of Sickle Cell Anemia in Children
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia in children might vary from child to child and can change over time. Most infants don’t have early symptoms till they are about 5 months of age. Some children with the Sickle cell disease might develop symptoms earlier on, while others might be later. Early symptoms of the sickle cell disease may include
Periodic episodes of acute pains called crises are a great sign of sickle cell anemia in children. This pain is developed when sickle-shaped red blood cell blocks blood from passing through the tiny vessels to the child’s chest, abdomen, and joints. Sometimes, pains can also be felt in the bones.
Painful Swelling of Hands and Feet
This swelling is caused by the blockage of the tiny blood vessels by the sickle-shaped red blood cell.
Tiny vessels that supply blood to the eyes might become clogged by the sickle-shaped red blood cell. This might damage the retina and leave the child with a bad vision.
Sickle cell is known to damage organs that help the body to fight infection, leaving the child vulnerable to several infections.
Chest Pain and Breathing Difficulty
This is also one of the symptoms of sickle cell anemia in children.
Treatment for Sickle Cell Anemia
Children with sickle cell disease should be referred to a doctor or someone who has experience in taking care of people with such disease.
The goal of treating sickle cell disease is to prevent or reduce pains, prevent infection, treat anemia, organ damage and stroke, and also help in the control of various complications.
Mild pain is often treated with over the counter drugs, while acute pain is majorly in the hospital. The major treatment for acute short-term pain is always with the aid of a pain relieving drug.
Children living with sickle cell disease will benefit greatly from the pain relieving drug called hydroxyurea. It is one of the best treatment for sickle cell crises.
Preventing infections in children is achieved through two methods.
- Daily dose of penicillin
- All routine vaccination.
Bone Marrow Transplant
This is one of the sure ways to cure sickle cell disease in children. It is basically used for young patients from a well-matched donor. The donor is mostly a family member who doesn’t have the disease.