Sickle cell anaemia
Sickle cell disease can cause a wide range of symptoms.
These can start from a few months of age, although many children have few or no symptoms if treatment is started early on.
Some of the main symptoms are outlined below, although not everyone with the condition will experience all of these.
Episodes of pain known as sickle cell crises are one of the most common and distressing symptoms of sickle cell disease. They occur when blood vessels to part of the body become blocked.
The pain can be severe and lasts for up to seven days on average.
A sickle cell crisis often affects a particular part of the body, such as the:
How often someone with sickle cell disease gets episodes of pain varies a lot. Some people may have one every few weeks, while others may have less than one a year. The average is one bad episode a year.
It's not always clear what triggers bad pain, but sometimes they can be caused by the weather (such as wind, rain or cold), Dehydration , stress or strenuous exercise.
People with sickle celldisease are more vulnerable to infections, particularly when they're young.
This is because the condition can mean the body isn't very good at dealing with bacteria and viruses.
Infections thatmay occur can range from mild (such as colds ), to much more serious and potentially life-threatening (such as meningitis ).
Vaccinations and daily doses of antibiotics can help reduce the risk of many infections.
Nearly all people with sickle cell disease have anaemia, where the haemoglobin in the blood is low. Haemoglobin is the substance found in red blood cells that's used to transport oxygen around the body.
This doesn't usually cause many symptoms, but sometimes it can get worse if you become infected with the virus that causes slapped cheek syndrome (parvovirus).
This can lead to a sudden drop in the number of red blood cells and may cause additional symptoms such as headaches , a rapid heartbeat, dizziness and fainting . It's usually treated with a blood transfusion.
In young children, swelling of the spleen can also cause sudden anaemia that requires a blood transfusion.
Sickle cell disease can also sometimes cause a wide range of other problems, including:
See treatments for sickle cell disease for information about how many of these problems are treated.
Find out about sickle cell disease, a serious inherited blood disorder where the red blood cells develop abnormally. Find out about the symptoms, causes and treatments.
Read about the possible symptoms of sickle cell disease, including painful episodes (crises), infections and anaemia.
Read about what causes sickle cell disease, how it's inherited and how it affects the body.
Read about testing for sickle cell disease, including screening during pregnancy, newborn screening and tests to find out if you're a carrier of the sickle cell trait.
Read about the main treatments for sickle cell disease, including medications to prevent pain, blood transfusions and stem cell transplants.
Read advice about living with sickle cell disease, including how to avoid pain and infections, when to get medical advice and getting pregnant.