The only cure for sickle cell anemia at this time is stem cell transplantation. However, this is not available or suitable to all sickle cell anemia sufferers. Despite this, doctors can still do a great deal to help people with sickle cell anemia, and treatment is constantly improving. During painful crises, medications can reduce pain and help avoid complications, and extra fluids can prevent dehydration. Oxygen can be provided if there isn't enough in the bloodstream.
For mild pain, medications such as acetaminophen* and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs; e.g., ibuprofen, naproxen) are tried first. More severe pain may need to be controlled with opioid pain medications (e.g., morphine, oxycodone).
Treatment with hydroxyurea may reduce the frequency of painful crises and of acute chest syndrome for adults and improve growth for children. However, the long-term side effects of hydroxyurea and its effects on complications are still being studied.
When anemia is severe, blood transfusions may be used to treat and prevent complications. Transfusions increase the number of normal red blood cells and fight anemia. Antibiotics may be given to infants and young children to prevent pneumonia, a serious complication of sickle cell anemia. Pneumococcal, H. influenza, and seasonal flu vaccines are recommended to prevent infections, but the vaccines are less effective for people who have had their spleen removed.
Bone marrow transplants have also been used to treat people with sickle cell disease and may cure some people, but the risks and benefits of this procedure must be considered carefully.
Research is ongoing into the possibility of gene therapy (replacing the faulty gene with a normal one). Other studies are focusing on the possibility of turning off the defective gene while at the same time reactivating another gene that turns on production of fetal hemoglobin.
Laser coagulation and other types of eye surgery may be used to prevent further vision loss in those with eye problems. Surgery may be recommended for certain kinds of organ damage, for example, to remove gallstones or replace a hip joint. Leg ulcers may be treated with cleansing solutions and zinc oxide, or with skin grafts if the condition persists.
Regular and preventative health care is critical for people with sickle cell anemia. Proper eating habits, good hygiene, plenty of rest, protection against infections, and avoidance of other stresses are important in maintaining good health and preventing complications. Regular visits to a physician or clinic that provides comprehensive care are necessary so that any problems can be found and treated early and quickly. Sickle cell anemia can't be prevented.
Those who are carriers and are considering having children should make sure that their spouse or partner isn't a carrier as well. If both parents carry the trait, there's a one in four chance that their child will have sickle cell disease. Sickle cell anemia can be detected before birth, and couples who are both carriers may wish to consider prenatal testing for the condition.
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2017. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/condition/getcondition/Sickle-Cell-Anemia