People Experience Sickle Cell Disease Differently
Because sickle cell disease affects people differently, I’ve never met two people with the disease who have the same story.
A quick Google search can introduce someone to the basics of sickle cell, such as its biology and common triggers, but understanding its differences and the ways it can affect someone requires more digging.
Sickle cell disease is a condition of the red blood cells, so a sickle cell-related issue can develop anywhere that blood flows. Because these misshapen cells have a difficult time circulating, a lack of oxygen throughout the body can cause muscle, nerve, and bone damage.
Some people with sickle cell develop hearing issues, while others have vision problems. Some develop mental health issues, while others report no effects at all — not even a sickle cell crisis, which makes me jealous!
Along with the different ways that sickle cell can manifest, complications can arise from a host of different triggers, which some people are more sensitive to than others. These triggers can include biological differences, sensitivities to environmental factors, and stress tolerance.
I have lived my entire life in the U.K., which is known for its bad weather, but I believe I have gotten used to this climate. However, if someone with sickle cell moved here from Burkina Faso, the hottest country in the world, they might have trouble adjusting to the cooler climate and experience crises as a result.
Stress causes our bodies to release hormones that makes our blood vessels narrow and our heart beat faster. In people with sickle cell, blood flows even more poorly through narrowed blood vessels, increasing the chance that cells will stick together and lead to a painful crisis, which can affect several areas of the body and last for hours or days.
Nevertheless, different people appear to be genetically predisposed to respond to stress differently, so an event that could result in a sickle cell crisis in one person might leave another person unscathed.
Because there are so many differences in the way sickle cell can affect its patients, it’s important to remember that we shouldn’t assume that all sickle cell patients require the same type of care.
What are the differences in sickle cell disease that you have noticed? Please share in the comments below.
Note: Sickle Cell Disease News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sickle Cell Disease News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sickle cell disease.