The Many Complications of Sickle Cell Anaemia

Sickle Cell graphicBy Dr Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo (Special to NTA News)
This past 2014 Easter weekend, Nigerians read a post on Facebook that was quite tragic. Politician and well known Nigerian government official Nasir El Rufai disclosed that he lost his daughter that Easter Sunday to the complications of Sickle Cell Anaemia. Previously in 2012, Former Nigerian leader General Buhari also lost his daughter Zulai to a similar complication of Sickle Cell Anaemia during childbirth. The fact is that Most Nigerians need to learn more about Sickle Cell Anaemia which  is a disease that must be properly managed and needs tremendous education in. The Sickle Cell gene and the trait need to be discussed with families possessing them as it may affect future offspring and their lives. In modern countries, Doctors even tell pregnant mothers to terminate pregnancies due to these risk factors. Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited disorder that affects mostly black people. Red blood cells become crescent-shaped because of a genetic defect. They break down rapidly, so oxygen does not get to the body’s organs, causing Anemia. The crescent-shaped red blood can cells also get stuck in tiny blood vessels, causing pain. It has some tremendous abilities to cause many complications in different aspects of life even though most of those complications are more visible when the patient has what is known as a “crises” when the symptoms escalate to almost life or death proportions. In the case of Zulai, General Buhari’s daughter, it was reported that she was in the process of childbirth when she allegedly had the crises before she passed away delivering a healthy baby girl. As tragic as that may sound, childbirth involves the loss of a lot of blood and there may be a need for transfusion in a sickle cell patient. This brings me to the first ever article I wrote here on #NTAHealth about the medical implications of donating blood in case of emergency especially after the Abuja bomb blast. Many Nigerians still unfairly assume that elite Nigerians in politics always have to fly their families abroad before getting quality care. Here are two situations where two high ranking political officials lost daughters to this deadly disease on Nigerian soil. Though Sickle cell is limited to mostly people in the black race, it does not discriminate based on socio-economic status. It just needs education especially within our Nigerian communities that are not as literate, educated or live in poverty and have no access to good health care. Complications that the US Center for Disease Control say patient and healthcare givers should monitor closely include Stroke which can occur if sickle cells block blood flow to an area of your brain. Signs of stroke include seizures, weakness or numbness of your arms and legs, sudden speech difficulties, and loss of consciousness. If your baby or child has any of these signs and symptoms, seek medical treatment immediately. A stroke can be fatal. Acute chest syndrome is a life-threatening complication of sickle cell anaemia causes chest pain, fever and difficulty breathing. Acute chest syndrome can be caused by a lung infection or by sickle cells blocking blood vessels in your lungs. It may require emergency medical treatment with antibiotics and other treatments. Pulmonary hypertension is when sickle cell anaemia patients develop high blood pressure in their lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Shortness of breath and difficulty breathing are common symptoms of this condition, which can be fatal. Organ damage where Sickle cells can block blood flow through blood vessels, immediately depriving an organ of blood and oxygen. In sickle cell anaemia, blood is also chronically low on oxygen. Chronic deprivation of oxygen-rich blood can damage nerves and organs in your body, including your kidneys, liver and spleen. Organ damage can be fatal. Blindness, skin ulcers and also gallstones are also common. KOO-Image Dr Kemi Omololu-Olunloyo is a US trained Pharmacist and Journalist who hosts #HealthReports by #DrKOO on MITV Ibadan by #HNNHealth. She is the News Director of #HNNAfrica, an innovative online world news portal Contact her on Twitter @HealthReports and @HNNAfrica

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