Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects hemoglobin in red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein that carries oxygen to all parts of the body. Normal red blood cells are round and smooth.
In a child with sickle cell disease, red blood cells are hard, sticky and shaped like a crescent. Sickled red blood cells stick together and block blood vessels, causing complications and excruciating pain, like:
- Acute chest syndrome: Sudden damage to lung tissue is common in children with sickle cell disease.
- Fever and infection: Even minor infections become a medical emergency for a child with sickle cell disease.
- Nephropathy:When sickle red blood cells get trapped inside the blood vessels of the kidneys, they cause kidney damage.
- Pain: Sickle red blood cells get stuck and block the flow of blood to parts of the body, such as bones, lungs, the spleen, the brain, eyes and kidneys causing immense pain.
- Stroke: A blockage or bleeding of the blood vessels can cause a loss of blood supply to part of the brain, leading to a stroke.