What Are the Most Common Symptoms of Sickle Cell Anemia?


Quick Answer

The most common symptoms of sickle cell anemia include painful swelling, frequent infections and impaired vision. Kidney problems and ulcers can also result from sickle cell anemia. The disease is congenital, and its symptoms appear when the infant is about four months old, notes Mayo Clinic.

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Painful swelling in the hands and feet are an indication of sickle cell anemia, and episodes occur when sickle cells limit oxygen delivery into body cells, explains Mayo Clinic. Patients experience a varying degree of pain, which they describe as sharp, intense and throbbing. In severe cases, the pain may exceed post-surgical pain and affect the lower back, chest, abdomen and legs, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Sickle cell anemia may damage the spleen, the infection-fighting organ, leading to frequent infections. To avert life-threatening infections due to the patient’s vulnerability, infants and older patients receive vaccinations. Impaired vision affects some patients when sickle cells plug the supply of blood to a patient’s eyes, sometimes damaging the retina, reports Mayo Clinic.

Other symptoms include chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and fever, which occur when sickle cells deprive the lungs of oxygen, notes the NHLBI. Painful episodes precede these symptoms. Sickle cell ulcers occur on the legs and increase in size over time. Though some ulcers heal quickly, they are recurrent and affect those over 10 years old. Cell sickling increases kidney sensitivity, which leads to increased urination and bedwetting problems, notes Mayo Clinic.

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