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Sickle Cell Anemia Questionnaire

Sickle cell anemia is one of the most common genetically inherited diseases in the world. It mostly affects people of African descent. The problem has to do with hemoglobin, the part of the red blood cell that helps to carry oxygen. People with sickle cell disease have an abnormality of their hemoglobin that makes it change the red blood cell shape under certain conditions. The red cell then changes from a disk (or doughnut)  like shape to a sickle shape which gives the condition its name. 
There are many different types, including Hemoglobin (Hb) SS, HbSC, HbS-Beta Thallasemia, etc. and symptoms can vary depending which type you have. Sickle cell trait is not a type of sickle cell disease – having the trait simply means that the person carries one abnormal (S) hemoglobin gene. If two people have the sickle cell trait and they have a child together, they have a 1 in 4 chance of their child having sickle cell disease. Hemoglobin SS disease is the most common type and generally the one with the most severe symptoms.

Some of the most common symptoms of sickle cell disease include:

  1. Anemia – the sickle red blood cells break down easily and so don’t last as long as regular red cells. They last only about 20 days instead of 120 days. Significant anemia can make people feel tired and fatigued.
  2. Pain crises – if a lot of red blood cells sickle, that starts a cascade of events that results in the blockage of little blood vessels. Areas beyond the blocked vessels don’t get enough oxygen and other nutrients and this causes pain which can be very severe.
  3. Risk of serious infections – this is most concerning in young patients with sickle cell, especially those under 5 years. This is because the spleen, which helps fight infections, is damaged from the many different sickling episodes.
  4. Jaundice – yellow color of skin and whites of eyes which happens because the red cells break down so quickly.

Even though a cure for all types of sickle cell anemia is still in the works, patients with the diagnosis can still live a healthy life as long as they take good care of themselves. It is important to follow up with your doctor regularly, to take medicines as prescribed and to seek medical care immediately if there are signs of a fever, stroke, bad jaundice and severe pain (especially chest pain).

If you would like more information on sickle cell anemia, here are some other useful sites.