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How do you treat sickle cell disease?

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Quick Answer

Stem cell transplants, blood transfusions, supplemental oxygen and various medications are used to treat sickle cell disease, states Mayo Clinic. Infections are a risk for people with sickle cell disease, so regular use of antibiotics and vaccinations are often used to prevent this complication. Other frequently used medications are pain relievers and hydroxyurea, which causes the body to produce fetal hemoglobin but increases the risks of infection.

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Full Answer

Sickle cell disease is a genetic disease that causes red blood cells to stiffen and take on a sickle shape, explains Mayo Clinic. These blood cells are fragile and break apart easily, which leaves the body with insufficient blood cells to carry oxygen to its tissues. This lack of sufficient blood cells is why sickle cell disease is often called sickle cell anemia. Supplemental oxygen helps the body to compensate for the lack of red blood cells. Sickle cells often damage the spleen, which is an important organ for fighting infection. Sickle cell disease can cause an episode of severe pain known as a sickle cell crisis, in which blood vessels in the body are blocked.

Possible complications of sickle cell disease include gallstones, stroke, blindness and skin ulcers, says Mayo Clinic. The disease can cause high blood pressure in the lungs, known as pulmonary hypertension, or block blood blow to the lungs, leading to a serious condition known as acute chest syndrome.

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