This month is sickle cell anemia awareness month, and for those who don't know, its time to get familiar with this lifelong syndrome affecting thousands.
Anemia, meaning a lower than average red blood cell count, makes you tired, causes pain, and makes it harder to get things done: your oxygen is more infrequently replenished that in a body housing healthy red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are donut shaped. Sickle cells are moon shaped, and its their shape that makes then move more slowly and sometimes get stuck in your tubes.
Tiny but important, blood cells are essential to the running of your body. Sickle cell anemia is passed through the genes. If your parents have it, you have a high chance of having it too.
African Americans carry the disease to the degree of one in 12. It doesn't mean one in 12 have the disease, but it does mean that if two in 24 get together, they could make children who have the problem. With good medication, and nutrition, a sickle cell anemic can live quite well, but with more awareness and screening, cases will be discovered earlier and preventative action put in place from the start.
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia are irritating (literally), but can all be overlooked without care. Anemia symptoms (sickle cell) include fatigue, joint and abdominal pain, irritability, yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes, leg sores, gum disease, frequent respiratory infections.
People with sickle cell anemia might end up with further anemia symptoms later on in life: blindness, and periods of prolonged, sometimes painful erections in males. People with sickle cell anemia can have anemia symptoms of severe pain in the arms, legs, chest, and abdomen that may be accompanied by fever, nausea, and difficulty breathing.
Dietary Habits Help
People with sickle cell anemia suffer from many nutrient deficiencies, but preliminary research on dietary habits shows that food and nutrient intake by sickle cell patients in general meets or exceeds recommendations and is not significantly different from healthy controls. This suggests the higher rate of nutrient deficiencies may be due to an increased need for many nutrients in sickle cell patients. The effectiveness of dietary interventions in supplying adequate nutrition to meet these higher demands has not been examined.
Healthcare practitioners typically advise people with sickle cell anemia to avoid high altitudes, to maintain an adequate fluid intake, and to receive vaccinations. Occasionally bone marrow transplants are recommended.