Sickle Cell Anemia

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Sickle cell anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a disease found right here in America, but in low levels compare to most of the world. The rate for disease is around five times greater in certain places in Africa. Sickle-Cell Anemia is often referred to as the “Negro-Inherited” disease, but that is incorrect. Although African Americans have a high occurrence of Sickle-Cell Anemia (1 in 400 African Americans), many other nationalities suffer from the disease. Sickle-Cell Anemia affects 8 out of 100,000 people worldwide this is because the potentially fatal disease sickle cell anemia can also work as a sort of vaccination for another disease called malaria. Sickle cell anemia is an inherited chronic disease of the blood. In order for this disease sickle cell to be inherited one gene form each parent to have it. A person who receives a gene for Sickle Cell Anemia from one parent and a normal gene from the other has a condition called sickle cell trait. Sickle cell trait produces no symptoms or problems for most people. Sickle Cell Anemia can be neither contracted nor passed on to another person. The severity of sickle cell disease varies greatly. Some people with sickle cell disease live their life almost as normal as people without the disease. Others are less fortunate, and can suffer from a variety of conditions. Sickle Cell Anemia is caused by a change in the chemical composition of the protein hemoglobin, which is responsible for delivering oxygen throughout our bodies. Normal hemoglobin is found as a round shape, and is composed of four proteins – two alpha chains and two beta chains. The change that causes Sickle Cell Anemia occurs when an amino acid called valine is substituted for glutamic acid in both of the beta chains. This change in the composure of hemoglobin causes the shape to change when under certain conditions. Two of these conditions are low oxygen and dehydration. The hemoglobin of a person with Sickle Cell Anemia then becomes elongated and curved, hence the name sickle cell. When this happens many problems can occur, primarily blood clotting which leads to a lack of oxygen in body tissues. Other negative effects of Sickle Cell Anemia are a weakened heart because it is constantly overworked. In addition, bone marrow is affected and bones become softer than usual. While there is no cure for Sickle Cell Anemia, there is treatment. The primary goal is to reduce the frequency of the Sickle Cell Anemia crisis episodes and maintain enough red blood cells to keep body tissues healthy. Adequate hydration, oxygenation, bone marrow stimulation, and blood transfusions are commonly used to treat Sickle Cell Anemia. In the United States, about one in five hundred African Americans develop sickle cell anemia. In Africa, about one in one hundred individuals develop the disease. Why is the frequency of a potentially fatal disease so much higher in Africa? The answer is related to another potentially fatal disease, malaria. Malaria is characterized by chills, fever, vomiting, and severe headaches. Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium that is transmitted to humans by a mosquito.

When malaria parasites invade the bloodstream, the red cells that contain defective hemoglobin because of Sickle Cell Anemia become sickled and die. This effectively protects the individual with Sickle Cell Anemia from an infection of malaria. This explains why areas if the world with a high rate of malaria, such as Africa, also have a high rate for Sickle Cell Anemia.

This chronic blood disease is when the body produces abnormal red blood cell shapes. The blood cells become shaped like a crescent or sickle. When this accrues, the blood is unable to produce the right amount of oxygen to the other cells in the body. The sickle cells block blood passageway to the limbs and organs and that lessen the blood flow throughout the body. This causes pain, organ damage, and anemia. Unfortunately, this disease is incurable. In the sickle...
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