Sickle Cell Anemia - What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?

Source:  Sickle Cell Anemia - What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?    Tag:  testing for sickle cell anemia
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited disorder of the blood that causes your blood NOT to transport enough oxygen to your different body organs as they should. This condition is one of several types of anemia.

If you have anemia, it may mean that you have lower than normal number of red blood cells (RBCs). Your RBCs are the ones that carry oxygen to your different cells. Sometimes, anemia can be caused by your red blood cells not having enough hemoglobin -- the oxygen-carrying component of RBCs.

Normally, your RBCs are disc-shaped with a depression on each side and usually live for about 120 days. When viewed under the microscope, your RBCs look like doughnuts without its holes in the center. In sickle cell anemia, however, the red blood cells are shaped like a sickle (crescent-shaped). They don't survive long as normal RBCs do. These abnormally shaped RBCs usually last for about 10-20 days.

Your bone marrow -- the part of your bone that produces your blood cells including your red blood cells -- can't produce enough RBCs at a time to replace those dead sickle-like RBCs. As a result anemia can occur.

If you have anemia, you can get weak, feel cold or get dizzy. Sometimes, you may feel irritable. The only way to confirm that you have anemia is through blood testing.

To test if your anemia is caused by sickle-celled RBCs, your may order a sickle cell test, hemoglobin electrophoresis and complete blood count (CBC).

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References:
Sickle Cell Anemia. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Available at http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Sca/SCA_WhatIs.html. Accessed on November 23, 2010

Anemia. Medline Plus, National Library of Medicine. Available at http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/anemia.html. Accessed on November 23, 2010