Have you ever seen a sickle? It's a farm tool with a curved, sharp edge for cutting wheat. Sickle cell anaemia (say: sik-ul sell uh-nee-mee-uh) is a disease of the blood. It gets its name because a person's rid blood cells are shaped like sickles, or crescent moons, instead of their usual round, disc shape.
Round is the healthiest shape for red blood cells (or RBCs) because they can move easily through the body. RBCs carry oxygen around your body, and every part of your body needs oxygen to work properly. Red blood cells are made inside the bones in the soft, spongy area called the bone marrow (say: mair-oh). Every time you take a breath, you breathe in oxygen and your RBCs carry oxygen to every cell in your body. Any time a person's body doesn't have enough red blood cells, it's called anaemia. When the cause is the sickle shape of the RBCs, it's called sickle cell lanaemia. .
When RBCs are shaped like sickles or crescent moons, they can get stuck, especially inside smaller blood vessels. This keeps blood from flowing properly in the body, which can cause a lot of pain. Important organs like the brain, heart, and kidneys need constant blood flow to work properly. A person's body knows that the sickle cells aren't good, so it destroys them more quickly. But the body can't make new blood cells fast enough to replace the old ones.
Signs and Symptoms
Kids who have sickle cell anaemia may feel pain in their chest, stomach, or bones when blood vessels get clogged with sickle cells. The pain can last a few minutes or several days, and it might hurt a lot or just a little. When this happens, it's called a sickle cell crisis (a crisis means a time of trouble).
Nobody knows exactly when sickle cells might get stuck or which blood vessels might get clogged. Certain conditions, like if a person gets too cold, gets sick, or doesn't drink enough fluid, can lead to a sickle cell crisis. Doctors and nurses can help by giving strong medicine to relieve the pain.
Because kids with sickle cell anaemia don't have enough normal RBCs, they get tired more easily. They also get infections more often than other kids do. They may not grow as fast as their friends. Sometimes the whites of their eyes have a yellowish color, known as jaundice (say: jon-dus), and they may have to go to the bathroom a lot. In little kids usually those under age 2 sickle cell anaemia can cause their hands and feet to swell and hurt. Sometimes they can have more serious illnesses and have to stay in the hospital.
What Causes Sickle Cell Anaemia?
Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited (say: in-hair-uh-ted) disease. That means you can't catch it like you can catch a cold or the flu. Kids are born with the disease when both parents pass along the sickle cell anaemia gene to their children. More African Americans have sickle cell anaemia than any other group of people. About 1 out of every 500 African Americans has the disease. But some people whose ancestors came from countries around the Mediterranean Sea like Greece, Italy, and Saudi Arabia have sickle cell genes, too. Some scientists think sickle cell anaemia may be connected to malaria (say: muh-Iar-ee-uh), a serious and sometimes deadly disease that was very common in those countries. It is believed that people who carry the gene for sickle cell anaemia are less likely to catch malaria. So more of these people survived and passed on the sickle cell gene to their children.
Continues next edition insha Allaah
This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited