Complications of Sickle Cell Disease

The signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia are different and varies from person to person. Here are the most common symptoms:

  • Anemia: Fatigue, pale skin, jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), and shortness of breath. One may require tranfusions frequently.
  • Pain: Episodes of pain throughout the body due to red blood cells sickling and becoming trapped in the smaller blood vessels in the joints and organs.
  • Infections: Children and adults with sickle cell disease may have a hard time fighting infections. Pneumonia is common among children because sickle cell disease damages the spleen and prevents its fighting mechanism.
  • Acute Chest Syndrome: Life-threatening condition caused by infection and sickle cell trapped in the lungs. Over time, the lung damage can lead to pulmonary hypertension.
  • Stroke: Sickle cells can also become trapped in small blood vessels in the brain which may lead to stroke.
  • Priapism: Men may have painful and long erections because of trapped sickle cells hence preventing blood from leaving the penis.
  • Gallstones: When red blood cells die, they release their hemoglobin and is changed to bilirubin. This product can form in the gallbladder and form gallstones. Gallstones can cause severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting. If the problems is severe enough, the gallbladder may need to be removed.
  • Ulcers on Legs: Entrapped sickle cells can prevent blood from reaching your legs. Over time, the interruption of oxygen to this area can cause ulcers (sores) to develop. These ulcers can be very painful and the healing time is variable.
  • Pulmonary Hypertension: Damage to small blood vessels in the lungs can make blood harder to push through the lungs. This can cause high blood pressure in the lungs.