Friday, June 6, 2014

Researching Sickle Cell Anemia Prevention

By Lila Bryant

This disease is inherited from parents who both have the sickle cell trait. This is the only way that a child can be born with this malady. Sickle cell anemia prevention must begin at the birth of the prospective parents. Blood tests at birth checking for this disease are mandated by virtually every state legal system in America.

The risk of having a child who has this disease occurs when both parents have one copy of the cellular trait in their blood. There is a twenty five percent chance of both parents passing the gene to their off spring if they decide to have a child. Many people do not feel comfortable with these odds in view of the consequences that may face any child they have. There are other options available for consideration when couples decide to make this decision.

Some choose in-vitro fertilization as a safer way of conception. After the eggs are harvested and fertilized they can be tested to see if they contain the disease. Only the eggs that are free of it are kept and implanted into the uterus. This preimplantation genetic testing is very expensive and unfortunately not a sure thing.

Another method of detecting the gene prior to birth is by testing the baby in the second month of pregnancy. This process does not harm the fetus and will detect the disease prior to birth. A positive result from this test may influence the decision to continue the pregnancy for parents.

A small sample of blood taken by your doctor will tell you if there is a danger of passing the disease to your off spring. Genetic counseling is a very good option for anyone who may be a carrier of the hemoglobin S trait. It is good to remember that the trait must be passed to the baby by both parents for the disease to be created.

Should a child be born with the disease there are steps that can be taken in the second to fourth month of life that can mitigate the effects immensely. By getting weekly penicillin shots starting at this time it protects the child from the many infections and illnesses that are caused by the weakened immune system. The shots may continue until the child is five or six years old. This prevents the danger of pneumonia being caught by the child.

Transfusions are often given as a means of replacing the unaffected red cells in the blood. Supplemental oxygen is also recommended as treatment. As an adult the drug hydroxyurea can be helpful for increasing hemoglobin in red blood cells and decrease the more painful episodes. This disease affects every organ of the body and can result in multiple strokes and episodes of excruciating pain. The symptomatic episodes can last for extended periods up to thirty days.

The options for prevention of this disease are not many and fairly costly. Other than birth control they are also not completely effective. Potential cures, such as bone marrow transplants and stem cell therapy have low success rates and are still experimental in reality. The treatment plans if started early and followed throughout the victims lifetime have increased the life span of patients by many years and the quality of life can be considered normal to a very large extent.

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