Sickle cell anaemia - medical information
Sickle cell anaemia is the most common genetic (inherited) disease in England, affecting around 12,500 people.
Sickle cell disease (SCD), also known as sickle cell anaemia (SCA), is a hereditary blood disorder, caused by an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin found in red blood cells.
Causes of sickle cell anaemia
- In people with sickle cell anaemia the shape and texture of the blood cells can change.
- The cells become hard and sticky and are shaped like sickles, or crescents.
- The cells die prematurely leading to a shortage of red blood cells.
- This causes the symptoms of anaemia such as tiredness and breathlessness.
Symptoms of sickle cell anaemia
- If you have sickle-cell anaemia, your blood cells can get stuck when moving through small blood vessels, stopping the supply of oxygen to parts of your body.
- This is known as a 'sickle crisis'.
- This can cause pain, tissue damage, and can lead to other serious complications, such as a stroke, or blindness.
Treatments for sickle cell anaemia
- The only cure for sickle cell anaemia is a stem cell transplant.
- However a bone marrow transplant has many potentially serious side effects and is not recommended for all cases.
- The symptoms of sickle cell anaemia can be treated and people with the condition can learn how to help prevent a sickle crisis from happening.
Common triggers of a sickle cell crisis include:
- Excessive temperatures
- Excessive physical activity
Pamela, 18, was born with sickle cell anaemia and here she describes how to cope with the disease on a daily basis.
(video from NHS Choices YouTube channel)