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Sickle Cell Anemia

shutterstock_65373529Sickle cell anemia occurs in approximately 1 in every 500 African American births and 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births. It is a condition in which red blood cells can become sickle-shaped and block blood flow.  (Source: National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute - National Institutes of Health)

Sickle cell anemia is the most common and usually the most serious form of sickle cell disease.  The red blood cells become crescent-shaped, making it difficult for blood to flow through vessels and deliver oxygen throughout the body.  Normally, red blood cells are disk-shaped. The symptoms of sickle cell anemia vary by individual, and can include debilitating painful episodes, fever and other serious infections, delayed growth, vision problems, body organ damage and chronic anemia.

Forty years ago, babies born with sickle cell anemia were only expected to live to about 14 years of age.  Decades of medical research have lead to significant advances, allowing sickle cell anemia to be treated immediately upon diagnosis. Babies born today with the disease have a life expectancy through age 40.  Legislation in 50 states now mandates that all babies be screened for sickle cell before leaving the hospital. Diagnosing sickle cell disease (and sickle cell trait, indicating someone is a carrier) is done through a blood test. Once diagnosed, sickle cell disease is treated as a manageable, chronic illness.  New treatments, including stem cell transplant, are continually being tested.  (Source:  NYT Health Guide & KidsHealth.org)

 

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Last updated 6-10-2016

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