Sickle Cell Anaemia: Symptoms and Complications

Sickle cell anaemia

What is sickle cell anaemia?

Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited disorder of the red blood cells. The name ‘sickle’ comes from the deformed sickle-shaped red blood cells in this condition of anaemia. Due to these shapes, the red blood cells get stuck very easily in the tiny blood vessels and restrict the flow of blood leading to pain and organ damage.

The faulty haemoglobin is called Haemoglobin S (HgbS) which replaces the normal Haemoglobin A (HgbA). Gradually with times, these faulty RBCs become tough and shaped like a sickle.

Sickle cell anaemia is usually genetic and both parents must carry the gene for the baby to be born with sickle cell anaemia.

Signs and symptoms of sickle cell anaemia:

People having sickle cell anaemia disease experiences a lot of pain in body parts where blood cannot flow properly. These are known as pain crisis. The pains can happen in any part of the body that can increase with sickness, dehydration, stress, and cold. The pain can last from a few hours to a few days. Sometimes due to severe pain, you might need hospitalization.

People suffering from sickle cell disease often have a very low count of red blood cells. Some other common symptoms of sickle cell anaemia are:

  • Paleness in the skin, lips and nail beds
  • Tiredness
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Being irritable
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Frequent infections
  • Delay in physical growth and puberty
  • Problems with vision

Complications that can happen due to sickle cell anaemia

A person with sickle cell anaemia can have health complications that need immediate attention from the doctor:


One of the worst complications that can happen due to sickle cell anaemia is stroke when these abnormal cells restrict blood flow to the brain. The symptoms include seizures, weakness in hands and legs, numbness in limbs, sudden difficulty in speech and getting unconscious. If your child is facing any of these symptoms, hurry to a doctor.

Also, read: How to identify the Symptoms of Brain Stroke

Acute Chest syndrome 

The chest syndrome leads to pain, fever, and difficulty in breathing. It might also happen due to lung infection or some sickle cells blocking the blood vessels to the lungs. Emergency medical treatment is required.

Besides they can also develop high blood pressure in the lungs known as pulmonary hypertension. This is a common complication in adults than in children.

Organ damage 

This is another serious damage due to sickle cell anaemia. Sickle cells can restrict oxygen and blood flow to the tissues and organs affecting the functioning of the organs. This leads to organ failure. Kidneys, spleen and liver damage can be fatal.

Leg ulcers 

Sickle cell anaemia can also cause ulcers in legs.


Sickle cells block the tiny blood cells in the eyes which over time might affect the retina leading to blindness.

(Know about Night Blindness)


How to prevent sickle cell anaemia

You can definitely prevent sickle cell anaemia in your child by going for a blood test before conceiving. If both you and your partner have sickle cell anaemia, there is a 25% chance of your child to be born with sickle cell anemia, but if only one of the partners have sickle cells anaemia, there is a 50% chance of your child to be born with sickle cell trait.

Those with sickle cell trait will have enough healthy red blood cells and normal haemoglobin to prevent cells from sickling.






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