Sickle Cell Anemia

By: Olivia Miller

What is Sickle Cell?

- Sickle Cell Anemia is a disorder that causes red blood cells to become misshapen and break down

-These blood cells are shaped like creasents instead of the normal flat doughnut shape

-Instead of normal hemoglobin, which carries iron in the blood, sickle cells carry hemoglobin S (which is what causes the red blood cells to collapse into a crescent shape)

-Unlike normal red blood cells that will live in the body for about 120 days, sickle red blood cells will only survive in the body for about 20 days. This makes it extreamly difficult for your body to produce cells fast enough

Cause of Sickle Cell Anemia

-  A person can only have sickle cell anemia if they are born with two sickle cell anemia genes. (One from each parent)

- You are only born with this disease if each of your parents carry a single sickle cell gene in them. (Meaning that they themselves don't have the disease, but instead are a carrier)

- These cells are produced, like normal red blood cells, from spongy bone marrow, but instead of containing the normal hemoglobin that helps red blood cells keep their shape these cells have the hemoglobin S that causes them to creasent.


Symptoms of sickle cell anemia include

  • -Shortness of breath
  • -Dizziness
  • -Headaches
  • -Coldness in hands and feet
  • -Paler skin than normal and mucous membranes
  • - Jaundice

- Another symptom is sudden pain throughout the body caused by the sickle cells clumping together in the blood and blocking the flow

-This can cause pain, organ, and bone damage to the body. No one can tell when the blockage will occur and could occure as many times as once a year to once a month.

Diagnostic Test

- A simple blood test can show if the hemoglobin in the body contains hemoglobin S or not.

-It's usually is part of the routine new born screening at the hospital, but at anytime can someone take the blood test to see if they have sickle cell.

- The doctors will also screen to see if the person has a single sickle cell gene or two sickle cell genes.


- There are about 20k to 200k people diagnosed with sickle cell anemia each year

How can it be prevented?

- There is no way to prevent sickle cell anemia if both your parents carry the disease.

- However there are steps that one could take to help prevent or reduce complications

Risk Factors and Complications

- A stroke can occur if the sickle cells block the blood flow to your brain

- Acute chest syndrome which occurs when the sickle cells block flow of blood to your lungs, and can cause chest pain, fever, and trouble breathing

- Pulmonary hypertension can occur in the lungs, but this mostly occurs in adults more often than children

- Can cause major organ damage by blocking the blood flow to major organs in the body

- In some cases the sickle cells even block the little blood flow to your eyes and can over time become blind

Current Treatment Options

- In the US there is no widely available cure, but are treatments that will help relieve pain, prevent infections, prevent organ damage, help with strokes, and even help to treat the complications if they arise

- New born babies with sickle cell anemia are put on antibiotics to help make sure they get no infections while they are still an infant and research shows that by placing the newborns on medication help control their anemia later on in life

- Severe sickle cell anemia can be treated with hydroxyurea which prompts your body to make hemoglobin F (the same hemoglobin infants have)

- Blood transfutions and even marrow stem cell transplant may offer a cure or help reduce the amount of sickle cells in the body, but can be proven to be very risky in some people


"How Is Sickle Cell Anemia Treated?" - NHLBI, NIH. N.p., 28 Sept. 2012. Web. 25Feb.2015.<>."

"Mayo Clinic Staff. "Sickle Cell Anemia." Complications. N.p., 11 June 2014. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>."

"Sickle Cell Disease Symptoms, Causes, Treatments." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 23 Feb.2015. <>."


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