Sickle Cell Disease
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Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Disease Symptoms

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If a person has sickle cell disease, it is present at birth. But most newborns do not have any problems from the disease until they are about 5 or 6 months of age.

The symptoms of sickle cell disease can vary from person to person and can change over time. Over time, you may experience symptoms depending on how sickle cell disease affects your health.

Early symptoms

  • A yellowish color of the skin, known as jaundice, or whites of the eyes, known as icterus, that occurs when a large number of red cells undergo hemolysis
  • Extreme tiredness or fussiness from anemia
  • Painful swelling of the hands and feet, known as dactylitis

Know when to seek emergency medical care

Sickle cell disease can lead to serious and life-threatening health problems. If you think you or someone else is having any of the following symptoms or complications, seek medical care or call 9–1–1 right away.

  • Symptoms of severe anemia: This includes extreme tiredness (fatigue), shortness of breath, dizziness, or irregular heartbeat. Splenic sequestration crisis or an aplastic crisis can cause severe anemia symptoms. These conditions can be life-threatening.
  • Fever: All children and adults who have sickle cell disease and a fever of more than 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit or 38.5 degrees Celsius must be seen by a doctor and treated with antibiotics right away. Some people will need to be hospitalized.
  • Symptoms of acute chest syndrome: This includes chest pain, coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. You will need to be admitted to the hospital, where you may receive antibiotics, oxygen therapy, or a blood transfusion.
  • Stroke symptoms of a stroke: Warning signs include sudden weakness, numbness on one side of the body, confusion, or trouble speaking, seeing, or walking.
  • Priapism: If you experience an erection that lasts for 4 hours or more, go to the hospital to see a hematologist and urologist.
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