Who Is at Risk?
Anyone can get sickle cell anemia. This disorder is passed on from generation to generation. However, data shows that people with ancestry located in the following parts of the world are more at risk:
- The Arabian Peninsula
- The Mediterranean (in particular, Greece, Turkey, and Italy)
- South America and Central America
- Some regions of the Caribbean
However, it’s important to note that this condition can happen to anyone regardless of their nationality.
Signs and Symptoms
Since sickle cell anemia is inherited, symptoms can start showing as early as five months of age. Signs and symptoms include:
A shortage of red blood cells in the body is called anemia. A person with sickle cell anemia has red blood cells that don’t live as long as healthy ones, which will cause a lack of oxygen in the body. This can lead to fatigue.
Acute pain crisis can occur without warning when sickle cells block blood flow and decrease oxygen delivery. A lowered amount of red blood cells, coupled with the immobility of sickle cells, will cause some parts of the body to not receive enough blood. This can cause episodes of pain often referred to as “pain crises”. These episodes can affect any part of the body, such as the chest, joints, legs, arms, or back.
The duration of these pain crises can range from a few hours to weeks. Sometimes, it can cause severe pain that requires hospitalization. Acute pain crisis can occur without warning when sickle cells block blood flow and decrease oxygen delivery.
Sickle cells can block proper blood flow to the small blood vessels in the eyes, damaging or impairing the retina. This can lead to vision problems.
Swelling in the hands and feet
Sickle cells, due to their irregular shape, may decrease blood flow to the hands and feet, which can cause swelling.
A shortage of red blood cells can mean that the body won’t be able to receive enough oxygen and nourishment to grow at the right pace. Children with sickle cell anemia might grow slower compared to other kids.