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Sickle cell anemia treatment typically consists of a combination of several possible approaches, including drugs, bone marrow transplants, blood transfusions, and the administration of oxygen. The primary goals of treatment are to manage pain and discomfort, avoid infection, and increase the level of red blood cells in the bloodstream. The type and intensity of sickle cell anemia treatment varies according to the progression and severity of the disease. Most treatments are only able to treat symptoms, rather than providing a full cure.
There are different kinds of medications that can be used for sickle cell anemia treatment, depending on the age and condition of the patient. The regular administration of antibiotics is common among young children who have the disease, as this helps to ward off serious infections. Both prescription and over-the-counter drugs may be prescribed for patients of any age who experience pain as a result of their condition. Patients with a serious, more advanced form of sickle cell anemia may take hydroxyurea, both to lessen the necessity for blood transfusions and to manage pain. A serious side effect of hydroxyurea, however, is that it also lowers the number of infection-fighting white blood cells in the bloodstream.
Another common sickle cell anemia treatment is the blood transfusion. This can help to raise abnormally low levels of red blood cells in the body. The patient will receive cells that have been extracted from donor blood of the same or a compatible type. Those who receive regular transfusions usually also take medication to reduce the excess amount of iron the transfusions introduce into the body.
Anemia can leave many patients short of breath. Some patients will be given regular administration of supplemental oxygen to manage breathing difficulties that arise as a result of the condition. This method is usually reserved for individuals in a more severe or advanced stage of the disease.
One of the most aggressive treatments for sickle cell anemia is a bone marrow and stem cell transplant. The procedure requires lengthy recovery time and extensive medical follow-up. Though it is the most likely treatment to provide a full cure, it is typically reserved for patients who are most severely affected by the condition. This is due to risks associated with a transplant, such as the possibility of the body violently rejecting the foreign marrow.