5 Tips for Sickle Cell Patients to live well

sickle cell
credit; Guardian.ng

Why do we have sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is caused by a faulty gene that affects how red blood cells develop. If both parents have this faulty gene (carries the faulty gene, but don’t have the condition), there’s a 25% chance of each child they give birth to having sickle cell disease.

People with sickle cell disease produce unusually shaped red blood cells that can cause problems because they don’t live as long as healthy blood cells and they can become stuck in blood vessels. It is a serious condition that occurs almost exclusively in blacks and can have significant impact on peoples’ lives.

The Tips to keep them longer

1. Avoid the triggers:

Consider the following tips to reduce your risk of experiencing the painful episodes which is the most common type of sickle cell crises.

Drink plenty of fluids; particularly during hot weather (dehydration increases the risk of a sickle cell crisis).

Avoid extreme temperatures; you should dress appropriately for the weather and avoid sudden temperature changes such as swimming in cold water.

Be careful at high altitudes; the lack of oxygen at high altitudes may trigger a crisis (planes are pressurized to maintain a steady oxygen level).

Avoid very strenuous exercise; you are advised to be active, but intense activities that cause you to become seriously out of breath are best avoided.

Avoid alcohol and smoking; alcohol can cause dehydration and smoking can trigger a serious lung condition.

Keep your pain relieve medications handy.

  1. Avoid infections.

Antibiotics (prophylaxis) are usually given and vaccinations to help prevent most serious infections. A drug such as Hydroxyurea may also help to decrease the frequency of crises.

On your part, ensure to follow good food hygiene measures to prevent food poisoning.

Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, particularly after going to the toilet and before handling food. Store your food properly and cook food thoroughly. Ensure reheated food are steaming hot before serving.

In case you come down with infections, consult your doctor immediately for proper treatment.

  1. Blood transfusion may be needed if severe anaemia develops.

Having regular blood transfusions (usually every 3-4 weeks) may be helpful if problems continue or get worse, or there are signs of damage caused by the condition.

Stem cell or bone marrow transplants can potentially cure sickle cell disease, but they’re not done very often because of the significant risks involved.

Credit; Emaze.com
Credit; Emaze.com
  1. Plan your Pregnancy

There’s an increased risk of problems such as anaemia, sickle cell pain, miscarriage and pre-eclampsia during pregnancy. You may need extra monitoring and treatment during pregnancy to help prevent problems. Talk to your doctor so you can plan well ahead of time.

If you’re not planning a pregnancy, kindly use a reliable form of contraception.

  1. Know when and where to get medical advice.

This is important because sickle cell disease can cause a number of serious problems that can appear suddenly.

Seek medical help immediately if you have a high temperature (fever), severe pain that isn’t responding to treatment at home, a very severe headache, dizziness or stiff neck, breathing difficulties, very pale skin or lips, sudden swelling in the tummy, a painful erection (priapism) lasting more than two hours, confusion, drowsiness or slurred speech, seizures (fits), weakness on one or both sides of the body, changes in vision or sudden vision loss.

As a sickle cell carrier we care about you and want you to live longer than expected..

Sources:

  1. Sickle cell disease, NHS http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Sickle-cell-anaemiaSickle cell disease
  2. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy; Nineteenth Edition.

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