Sickle Cell Anemia

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At the hospital once again. What are the symptoms? Excruciating pain that would rank a nine on a scale of one to ten. Yes, the strongest pain medicine in hospital is needed to lessen the pain. Yes, this is the fourth visit in a month and a half with these symptoms. No, the patient is not a drug addict—the patient suffers from sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a blood disorder that affects the red blood cells. One of the most common forms of SCD, sickle cell anemia, has a myriad of painful symptoms, but there are treatments for some. As technology further advances, better treatments and ultimately a cure for SCD will be discovered.
Sickle cell anemia (SCA) is the most common of several subtypes of SCD (“What is,” n.d.). SCA affects the red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a molecule in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body. Newborn infants produce oxygen-rich hemoglobin. Shortly after birth, infants switch from producing fetal hemoglobin to adult hemoglobin. This switch in hemoglobin production triggers the painful symptoms of SCD (“Reversing Sickle,” 2011). Normal red blood cells are disc shaped. Those with SCA have an abnormal hemoglobin molecule, hemoglobin S, which alters the shape of red blood cells into a sickle, or crescent, shape (“Sickle cell,” n.d.). Hemoglobin S is formed as a result of amino acid substitution. One of the nucleotides of hemoglobin, thymine, is replaced with adenine, causing a change in the amino acid chain. This mutation causes the amino acid to be valine instead of glutamic acid (Weatherall, 2013).
Due to the abnormal shape of red blood cells, a myriad of health concerns arise in an individual with SCA. SCA can increase the “risk of stroke, organ dama...

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