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Sickle Cell Anemia

An inherited disease in which the red blood cells have an abnormal crescent shape, block small blood vessels, and do not last as long as normal red blood cells. Sickle cell anemia is caused by a mutation (change) in a gene.

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(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia (uh-NEE-me-uh) is the most common form of sickle cell disease (SCD). SCD is a serious disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells. "Sickle-shaped" means that the red blood cells are shaped like a crescent.

Normal red blood cells are disc-shaped and look like doughnuts without holes in the center. They move easily through your blood vessels. Red blood cells contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin (HEE-muh-glow-bin). This protein carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

Sickle cells contain abnormal hemoglobin called sickle hemoglobin or hemoglobin S. Sickle hemoglobin causes the cells to develop a sickle, or crescent, shape.

Sickle cells are stiff and sticky. They tend to block blood flow in the blood vessels of the limbs and organs. Blocked blood flow can cause pain and organ damage. It can also raise the risk for infection... Read more about Sickle Cell Anemia

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Hormone contraceptives for women with sickle cell anemia

Whether women with sickle cell anemia should use hormonal birth control is unknown. Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease. This type of anemia also causes bone pain known as sickle pain crises. A concern is that women with this disease using hormonal birth control may have blood vessels blocked by blood clots or have more bone pain. Clinicians often do not prescribe these types of birth control due to these concerns. However, many women with sickle cell anemia are sexually active, are able to get pregnant and are interested in contraception.

The Clinical Effectiveness and Cost-Effectiveness of Primary Stroke Prevention in Children with Sickle Cell Disease: A Systematic Review and Economic Evaluation

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a recessive genetic blood disorder, caused by a mutation in the β-globin gene. For children with SCD, the risk of stroke is estimated to be up to 250 times higher than in the general childhood population. Transcranial Doppler (TCD) ultrasonography is a non-invasive technique which measures local blood velocity in the proximal portions of large intracranial arteries. Screening with TCD ultrasonography identifies individuals with high cerebral blood velocity; these children are at the highest risk of stroke. A number of primary stroke prevention strategies are currently used in clinical practice in the UK including blood transfusion, treatment with hydroxycarbamide and bone marrow transplantation (BMT). No reviews have yet assessed the clinical effectiveness and cost effectiveness of primary stroke prevention strategies in children with SCD identified to be at high risk of stroke using TCD ultrasonography.

Hydroxyurea for the Treatment of Sickle Cell Disease

To synthesize the published literature on the efficacy, effectiveness, and toxicity of hydroxyurea (HU) when used for treatment of sickle cell disease (SCD); and to review the evidence regarding barriers to its use.

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Summaries for consumers

Hormone contraceptives for women with sickle cell anemia

Whether women with sickle cell anemia should use hormonal birth control is unknown. Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease. This type of anemia also causes bone pain known as sickle pain crises. A concern is that women with this disease using hormonal birth control may have blood vessels blocked by blood clots or have more bone pain. Clinicians often do not prescribe these types of birth control due to these concerns. However, many women with sickle cell anemia are sexually active, are able to get pregnant and are interested in contraception.

Vaccines for preventing severe salmonella infections in people with sickle cell disease

Salmonella organisms are probably second only to pneumococcus among bacterial causes of infection in people with sickle cell disease. Infection with these bacteria can lead to complications and reduce the quality of life of people with the disease and sometimes result in death. Immunization with salmonella vaccines is one of the interventions available to reduce infection by these bacteria. There are different types of vaccines available: the inactivated vaccines and the oral vaccines. We did not find any randomized controlled trials assessing these vaccines in people with sickle cell diseases. We therefore conclude that there is a need for a randomized controlled trial to assess the benefits and risks of the different types of vaccines to evaluate the potential for improving survival and decreasing mortality from salmonella infections in people with sickle cell disease.

Phytomedicines (medicines derived from plants) for sickle cell disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood condition caused by defects in the production of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen across the body. Sickle cell disease occurs when people inherit faulty genes responsible for producing haemoglobin from both parents. A variety of complications and a reduced life expectancy are linked with sickle cell disease. Phytomedicines are medicines derived from plants in their original state. People with sickle cell disease may come across them in terms of plant‐remedies from traditional healers. Their benefits have not been evaluated systematically. Laboratory work has long suggested that these medicines may help to ease the symptoms of sickle cell disease.

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Terms to know

Anemia
A condition caused when the body does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood that carries oxygen.
Blood
A tissue with red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and other substances suspended in fluid called plasma. Blood takes oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, and carries away wastes.
Genetic
Inherited; having to do with information that is passed from parents to offspring through genes in sperm and egg cells.
Hemoglobin
A protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to tissues and organs in the body and carries carbon dioxide back to the lungs.
Red Blood Cells (Erythrocytes)
A cell that carries oxygen to all parts of the body.
Sickle Cells
Red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid, sickle shape.

More about Sickle Cell Anemia

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Also called: Sickle cell anaemia, Sickle cell disease, Hemoglobin S disease, Drepanocytosis, SCA, SCD, HbS

Other terms to know: See all 6
Anemia, Blood, Genetic

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