Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease that is hereditary. It can be passed down to children when both of their parents carry at least one copy of a gene for sickle hemoglobin, the blood abnormality which causes the problem. There are several major and minor symptoms of sickle cell anemia, the worst of which is death.
Hemoglobin is the protein-based part of red blood cells that is responsible for the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to everywhere else in the body. In patients with sickle cell anemia, the hemoglobin is abnormal and called either sickle hemoglobin or hemoglobin S. This abnormality results in red blood cells that are disfigured into sickle-like shapes and can cause many of the symptoms of sickle cell anemia, some of which can be very painful.
One problem that can occur due to the sickle-shaped red blood cells is that they can get trapped in capillaries and disrupt the regular flow of blood. When this occurs, the symptoms mainly consist of attacks of severe pain, which are often accompanied by a fever. Some of the more major symptoms that can occur because of the disruption of blood flow include lung damage, kidney damage and strokes.
Another of the major symptoms of sickle cell anemia is the anemia itself, which is characterized by a lack of iron within the red blood cells. This lack of iron leads to the inability of the cells to carry the necessary amount of oxygen throughout the body. In turn, a person suffering from anemia will experience fatigue, weakness and physical discomfort, all of which, if left untreated, can result severe fatigue and sometimes death.
People who suffer from sickle cell anemia will often be required to be hospitalized for some of the major symptoms. There are other minor symptoms that can add to the discomfort including shortness of breath, jaundice, hypertension, and high blood pressure. Children who suffer from the disease may have an abnormally slow rate of development, which makes it important that sickle cell anemia is diagnosed as early as possible. It is therefore important for prospective parents to know when they are at risk for producing children with the hereditary disease.