Anemia is a shortage of red blood cells, sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease of the red blood cell. The normal red blood cell is shaped like disc, which gives them the flexibility through the smallest blood vessel. However, with the disease the red blood cells have an abnormal crescent shape like a sickle.
Hand-foot syndrome occurs when sickle-shaped red blood cells block blood vessels in the hands or feet. This causes the hands and feet to swell. It can also cause leg ulcers. Swollen hands and feet are often the first sign of sickle cell anemia in babies.
Delayed growth often occurs in people with sickle cell anemia. Children are generally shorter but regain their height by adulthood. Sexual maturation may also be delayed. This happens because sickle cell red blood cells can’t supply enough oxygen and nutrients.
Blindness can be caused by blockages in the vessels supplying the eyes. This can damage the retina.
Priapism is a lingering, painful erection that can be seen in some men with sickle cell disease. This happens when the blood vessels in the penis are blocked. It can lead to impotence if left untreated.
Heart and Lung disease
Since sickle cell disease interferes with blood oxygen supply, it can also cause heart problems which can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and abnormal heart rhythms. Damage to the lungs over time related to decreased blood flow can result in high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension) and scarring of the lungs (pulmonary fibrosis). These problems can occur sooner in patients who have sickle chest syndrome. Lung damage makes it more difficult for the lungs to transfer oxygen into the blood, which can result in more frequent sickle cell crises.
Seizures, strokes, or even coma can result from sickle cell disease. They are caused by brain blockages.
Sickle cells are easily broken, this breaking apart of red blood cells is called chronic hemolysis. Red blood cells generally live for about 120 days. Sickle cells live for a maximum of 10 to 20 days.