9 early signs of sickle cell anemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited health condition in which the red blood cells of an individual are crescent or sickle-shaped. These cells block blood flow to various body parts, depriving them of essential nutrients and oxygen. If not addressed, sickle cell anemia can cause damaged organs and nerves. To avoid this outcome, everyone should be aware of some common early warning signs of sickle cell anemia. They are:
Yellowish hue on the skin
People with sickle cell disease often develop jaundice, a condition in which their eyes and skin turn yellow. This happens because the sickle cells’ lifespans are shorter than normal red blood cells and die out faster than one’s liver can filter them out. The yellow color stems from the build-up of bilirubin, a yellowish compound that the dead cells build up inside the body, causing jaundice.
The yellowing of a person’s eyes and skin are early red flags of sickle cell anemia. As this health condition is inherited, people who experience this symptom must visit a healthcare professional immediately, especially if someone in their lineage has the disease.
Sickle cells tend to damage the spleen, an important organ for protection against specific germs and infections. Because of this, people with sickle cell anemia (in its early stages) frequently suffer from a wide array of infections. Individuals who have damaged spleens because of sickle cell anemia tend to suffer from infections caused by bacteria such as Meningococcus, Pneumococcus, Hemophilus influenza type B, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Mycoplasma pneumonia. These bacteria cause illnesses such as lung infection, blood infection, bone infection, and infection of the brain and spinal cord covering.
Frequent episodes of pain
Sickle cell anemia brings frequent and periodic pain crises, a medical term indicative of extreme pain. As specified earlier, the abnormal, sickle-shaped red blood cells obstruct blood flow. So, when the blood flow is blocked through the tiny blood vessels to one’s chest, abdomen, and joints, people with this condition experience sharp pain in those areas.
The frequency and intensity of the pain varies from person to person. Also, the crisis period varies from a few excruciating hours to a few excruciating days. A severe pain crisis necessitates a prolonged hospital stay. Sickle cell anemia also causes chronic pain through other agents, such as bone or joint damage and ulcers.
Although the blockage of blood flow may seem moderately harmful at first, it can have other debilitative effects on individuals. For instance, one of the significant effects of sickle cell anemia in its initial stages is vision blurriness and eventual loss. This happens because the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrition to the eyes get blocked and plugged with sickle-shaped cells. As a saturation point is reached, these cells damage the retina’s central portion that processes visual images, causing vision problems.
Apart from actively obstructing an individual’s blood flow, sickle cells also cause the development of blood clots in deep veins, causing diseases such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). These clots appear more often in the thighs, arms, pelvic areas, and legs of people with this health condition.
While this is relatively rare compared to other symptoms of sickle cell anemia, such as fever and lightheadedness, this symptom can have serious health effects on people. Some of the problems related to blood clots are disability, serious illness, and even death in some cases.
Sickle cell anemia is one of the main reasons for conditions such as stroke, pulmonary hypertension, and acute chest pain. Additionally, the incessant blockading of the blood flow due to the sickle cells can cause issues like lung infection, difficulty in breathing, and, more often than not, fever in individuals with the condition. The leading cause of fever, as is the case with almost any sickle cell-triggered condition, is the blockage of blood flow to various areas of the body, such as the bones of the hands and feet.
Dizziness and lightheadedness
Blood is the primary carrier of oxygen and essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and vitamins from food or other external elements. Sickle cell anemia does not allow these vital components to reach organs such as the brain and lungs. As a result, it is entirely common for people with this condition to feel a perpetual sense of tiredness, dizziness, and lightheadedness. The weakness is so much that such individuals may feel exhausted after completing routine tasks such as walking a few paces or climbing stairs.
This is one of the earliest symptoms of sickle cell anemia. So, suppose one feels such a constant sense of being spent all the time physically. In that case, it is certainly advisable for such individuals to consult their local healthcare expert regarding it immediately.
The sickle cell-driven obstruction of blood flow to the kidneys causes the death of active kidney cells en masse. As a result, it does not take long for people with this condition to suffer from acutely severe conditions such as lung failure and disease. The kidneys are primary blood purifiers and essential organs to keep one’s life running smoothly. So, if one has sickle cell anemia, there are several possibilities that their kidneys will be affected in the short term and seriously hamper the smooth running of their daily lives.
Sickle cell anemia tends to have particular health problems in its initial stages for pregnant women. As one knows, this disease already escalates the chances of people developing high blood pressure and blood clots. Both these issues get aggravated for women when they are pregnant.
Some awful pregnancy outcomes that sickle cell anemia can cause are premature birth, miscarriage, and having low birth weight babies.