What are the symptoms of sickle cell disease?


Quick Answer

Symptoms of sickle cell disease include anemia, frequent infections, episodes of pain, delayed growth and vision problems. Hand-foot syndrome, or swollen hands and feet, may be one of the first signs of sickle cell disease in infants, according to Mayo Clinic.

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Full Answer

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder in which the body makes sickle-shaped red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are circular in shape and carry an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin. In people with sickle cell disease, the blood cells contain abnormal hemoglobin called sickle hemoglobin. This abnormal protein causes the red blood cells to be sickle, or crescent, in shape. These cells commonly block blood flow in the vessels of certain limbs and organs. Once the blood flow is blocked, the risk of infection increases and pain and organ damage may result, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

Sickle cell is caused by a gene mutation, which is passed down through autosomal recessive inheritance. Individuals who have the disease have received the defective gene from both parents, Mayo Clinic explains. As of June 2015, no mass cure for sickle cell disease is available. Treating it generally becomes about managing pain and preventing infections, strokes and organ damage in addition to treating complications as they arise, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.

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