Sickle Cell Anemia

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Sickle cell anemia primarily affects people with African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Indian ancestry (Learn genetics, 2010; NHLBI, n.d.; Vorvick et al., 2010). Sickle cell anemia occurs when a person inherits two sickle cell gene, one from each parent, that cause the red blood cells to change and become crescent shaped. The underlying problem involves hemoglobin, a component of the red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs (Nabili, 2008, para. 1). In sickle cell anemia, the hemoglobin is flawed. As a result, the cells become sickle shaped and can’t travel as easily through blood vessels. Sickle cell anemia is an illness which has one primary cause, but a variety of symptoms and treatments.

Like most illnesses, sickle cell anemia has one primary cause. In order for sickle cell anemia to occur, a sickle cell gene must be inherited from both the mother and the father, so that the child has two sickle cell genes (Shiel, 2006, para. 3). The sickle cell gene causes the body to make abnormal hemoglobin. As mentioned above, hemoglobin is a protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues and returns carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs (Nabili, 2008, para. 1). A person with normal red blood cell will have hemoglobin A, however a person with sickle cell disease will have hemoglobin S (Sickle cell Disease Association of America, Inc.,2005, para 3). Normal red blood cells are usually round and soft and travel easily through small vessels; however sickle cells are abnormally shaped and stiff, thus causing them to have difficulty travelling through small vessels. Sickle cells can clog vessels depriving tissues of oxygen. As spoken of in two articles, sickle cells have a shorter life span than normal red blood cells. Normal red blood cells can live 120 days compared to sickle cells that only last 10 to 20 days, resulting in anemia. (Learn genetics, 2010 & Nabili, 2008)

Sickle cell anemia does not only have one primary cause, but also has a variety of symptoms. Sickle cell anemia has various symptoms that may vary upon every individual. All the symptoms that a person may experience are basically the direct result of the abnormal shaped blood cells. These cells deprive tissues of oxygen and in time the lack of oxygen to the tissues damages the organs and leads to pain.

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