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Manage Sickle Cell Anemia with Comprehensive Care
An inherited condition and one that most commonly affects blacks and Hispanics, sickle cell anemia blocks and/or slows blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body. Although there is no cure, doctors have methods for treatment that can help patients live longer, healthier lives.
"The basic problem with sickle cell anemia is that the red blood cells are rigid, sticky and shaped like sickles, or crescent moons," explains Emad Salman, M.D., pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. "This causes the blood cells to get stuck in narrow blood vessels, which blocks the flow of blood and oxygen."
Dr. Salman says that symptoms and complications range from mild to severe and vary from patient to patient. Some common symptoms include:
- Fatigue, paleness and shortness of breath
- Yellowing of skin and eyes
- Delayed growth and puberty in children
- Pain that occurs unpredictably in any body organ or joint—painful episodes are called 'crises'
- Frequent infections caused by damage to the spleen
- Hand-foot syndrome—fever, along with pain and swelling in the hands and feet. This may be the first symptom of sickle cell anemia in infants.
- Acute chest syndrome—a complication similar to pneumonia
"Crises can last only a few hours or several weeks, and patients can have crises once a year or as many as 15 in a year," Dr. Salman says. "Pain is the principal symptom of sickle cell anemia in both children and adults. So, treatment relies heavily on painkilling drugs and oral and intravenous fluids to reduce pain and prevent complications." Other treatment options include:
- Blood transfusions
- Certain anticancer medications
- Oral antibiotics
Proper nutrition, good hygiene, bed rest, protection against infections and avoidance of other stressors all are important in maintaining good health. "Regular health maintenance is critical for people with sickle cell anemia," Dr. Salman says. "With good health it is possible to live productive lives."
"Crises can last only a few hours or several weeks, and patients can have crises once a year or as many as 15 in a year," Dr. Salman says.
Emad Salman, M.D.
Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida
9981 S. HealthPark Drive, Suite 156
Fort Myers, FL 33908