World Sickle Cell Day 2023: What is Sickle Cell Disease, how does it affect RBCs, and what are the warning signs?

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Introduction

World Sickle Cell Awareness Day is observed on June 19th every year in India. The objective of this day is to raise awareness about Sickle Cell Disease among people. This blood disorder affects the red blood cells (RBCs) in the body and is usually inherited from parents to children. In this article, we will delve into the details of Sickle Cell Disease, its impact on RBCs, and the warning signs associated with it. Dr. Kailash Soni, an Associate Professor at a Government Medical College, will provide valuable insights and information on this topic.

When and Where Did it Start?

The United Nations General Assembly initiated World Sickle Cell Day in 2008 to raise global awareness about this disease as a public health issue. Since then, June 19th has been recognized as World Sickle Cell Awareness Day worldwide. This dedicated day aims to educate people about Sickle Cell Disease and promote early diagnosis, treatment, and support for individuals affected by the condition.

Understanding Sickle Cell Disease and its Impact on RBCs

Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic blood disorder characterized by abnormal hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin S, the abnormal type of hemoglobin predominant in individuals with Sickle Cell Disease, alters the shape of red blood cells, causing them to become sickle-shaped. The sickle-shaped cells are rigid and fragile compared to healthy red blood cells, which have a disc-like shape.

The alteration in shape makes it difficult for sickle cells to pass smoothly through small blood vessels, leading to a reduced blood flow to various parts of the body. This compromised blood flow can cause damage to organs and tissues due to insufficient oxygen supply. The impaired circulation can result in episodes of severe pain, organ dysfunction, and other complications associated with Sickle Cell Disease.

Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease

The symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease typically manifest in early infancy, usually around 5 or 6 months after birth. The severity of symptoms can vary from person to person, and some individuals may experience milder or more severe forms of the disease. Common symptoms include:

  1. Pain in the Body: Sickle Cell Disease can cause episodes of acute and chronic pain. The pain can occur in various body parts, including the chest, abdomen, bones, and joints. These painful episodes, known as sickle cell crises, can be debilitating and require medical intervention for relief.
  2. Bacterial Infections: Individuals with Sickle Cell Disease are more susceptible to bacterial infections, particularly those caused by Streptococcus pneumoniae. These infections can affect various organs, such as the lungs (pneumonia) and the brain (meningitis), and require prompt medical attention.
  3. Swelling in the Hands and Feet: Sickle Cell Disease can cause swelling in the hands and feet. This swelling, known as dactylitis, is often the first sign of the disease in infants.
  4. Vision-Related Problems: The abnormal shape and reduced flexibility of red blood cells in Sickle Cell Disease can affect the blood vessels in the eyes. This can lead to vision problems, including blurry vision, decreased visual acuity, and damage to the retina.
  5. Bone Damage: Sickle Cell Disease can result in bone damage and related complications, such as avascular necrosis. The decreased blood flow to the bones can cause bone tissue to die, leading to joint pain and
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