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Defining and Managing Sickle Cell Disease

Memorial Healthcare System offers a Sickle Cell Day Hospital
Memorial Healthcare System offers a Sickle Cell Day Hospital 02:00

Sickle cell is a genetic red blood cell disorder where normally round red blood cells contort into a sickle shape and die, leaving a shortage of healthy cells and potentially blocking blood flow to the body's organs. Healthy red blood cells are smooth, round, and bendable so they can easily flow through blood vessels and carry oxygen throughout the body. Sickled blood cells become banana shaped due to a special type of hemoglobin that does not carry oxygen efficiently and clumps the cell into its sickled shape. This shape causes the cells to become stiff and stick, keeping them from moving freely throughout the blood vessels. The sickled blood cells can block blood flow, prevent organs from receiving oxygen, and break down, reducing the amount of blood cells carrying oxygen.

An estimated 200,000 Americans live with sickle cell disease. People of African descent make up 90% of the population with sickle cell. It also affects people of Hispanic, South Asian, South European, and Middle Eastern ancestry. Sickle cell disease is passed down from your parents and is not contagious. It likely originated from an evolutionary attempt to protect against malaria. Having the sickle cell trait helps protect patients from the harmful effects of malaria, but though it introduced other health problems. Patients of sickle cell disease may experience pain, fatigue, and a yellowing of the skin. Because sickled blood cells do not live as long as healthy blood cells, the reduced number of blood cells in the body can cause patients to feel fatigue to a lack of oxygen delivered to their organs and tissue. Due to the sickled blood cell's shape, stiffness, and stickiness, they do not slide past each other like health blood cells and can jam up in the blood vessels causing pain.

Building a foundation of healthy habits, proper care, and medical support can help manage the symptoms of sickle cell disease. Patients should mind their nutrition and stay hydrated. Drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and eating a well-balanced diet of calcium-rich foods can help patients prevent a pain crisis. Patients should maintain a balanced body temperature with moderate physical activity. Common illnesses like the flu can be dangerous for patients with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell is a complex condition that can be difficult to understand and manage. Medical care from doctors and nurses who are familiar with the condition can help prevent serious problems.

Memorial Healthcare System offers a Sickle Cell Day Hospital, one of only a few in the country, that assist patients in the management of their condition to avoid acute, painful crises and other complications of sickle cell syndromes. The hospital provides primary care, hematology, and social services to ensure the needs of patients that battle sickle cell disease. Patients can avoid acute, painful crises and other complications before they become problematic. The Sickle Cell Day Hospital is located across the street from Memorial Regional Hospital's emergency department in Hollywood and is open Monday – Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Sickle Cell Day Hospital was made possible, in part, by funding from the nonprofit Memorial Foundation.

For more information on sickle cell disease or the Sickle Cell Day Hospital, visit

Content provided by Memorial Healthcare System

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