Sickle Cell Disease (cont.)
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Normal red blood cells have a 120-day life span. But people born with sickle cell disease have sickle-shaped blood cells that usually live no more than 20 days. These sickled cells can get stuck in blood vessels, blocking blood flow. See a picture of sickle cells blocking a blood vessel.
Less blood flow can damage the body's organs, muscles, and bones, sometimes leading to life-threatening conditions. Sickle cell disease may cause problems such as:
When a child is born with sickle cell disease, it's impossible to predict which problems will develop, when they will start, or how bad they will be. During the first 6 months of life, infants have a high level of fetal hemoglobin (HbF) in their blood, which protects them from red blood cell sickling. But dangerous complications of sickle cell disease may quickly develop between ages 6 months and 5 years, after levels of fetal hemoglobin decrease. Normal red blood cells have a 120-day life span, but sickled blood cells usually live no more than 20 days. When bone marrow can't produce enough red blood cells to keep up with sickled blood cell loss, severe anemia may develop.
Older children and adults with sickle cell disease may have few problems or have a pattern of ongoing complications that shortens their lives. The most common and serious problems caused by sickle cell disease are anemia, pain, and organ failure. Stroke affects around 10% of children with sickle cell disease.1
Other complications of sickle cell disease include:
People who have sickle cell disease live to age 50 to 60, on average. A lot depends on the type of sickle cell disorder and how it affects a person's health.
eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise
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