Medical IDs for Sickle Cell Anemia

How a Sickle Cell Anemia Medical ID Bracelet Can Help You

Sickle cell anemia is a life-long condition that can cause life-threatening complications, but it’s also possible to achieve a normal, healthy life with minimal disability. 

If you or your child has sickle cell anemia, wearing a sickle cell bracelet could save your life during an emergency. Sickle cell jewelry can alert first responders and healthcare providers of your condition in times of need and provides all the necessary information to help them administer the correct treatment in situations when you’re unable to communicate your needs. 

Every person with sickle cell anemia is different, so it’s recommended that you choose a personalized medical ID that can hold your or your child’s unique medical information. Some details you may want to consider adding to your sickle cell jewelry includes: Your name; sickle cell status and other medical conditions, if any; allergies; specific medications; emergency contact number (including ICE contact and doctor’s contact information.

What is Sickle Cell Anemia?

Sickle cell anemia is one condition of a group of inherited blood disorders known as sickle cell disease or SCD. It happens when hemoglobin  — a protein found in blood cells — becomes defective, affecting the integrity of red blood cells. 

Healthy red blood cells are smooth and round, with a slightly indented center, like doughnuts without a hole. This allows them to move easily through blood vessels and carry oxygen throughout the body.  But in sickle cell anemia, red blood cells are shaped like sickles or crescent moon. 

With time, these abnormal red blood cells also become hard and sticky, making them more likely to stick to small blood vessels and clog blood flow, which can slow or obstruct circulation and oxygen to other parts of the body. This can lead to severe pain, infections, organ damage, and stroke. 

Sickle cells also have a significantly shorter lifespan than regular red blood cells. A healthy red blood cell with normal hemoglobin can live up to 120 days, whereas sickle cells only last 10 to 20 days. As a result, the body isn’t able to replace the lost cells fast enough, leading to a chronic shortage of red blood cells (anemia).

Who Is Affected By Sickle Cell Anemia?

Sickle cell anemia is a rare genetic blood disorder affecting 70,000 to 100,000 people in the United States. It mainly occurs in African Americans and those with Hispanic and Caribbean ancestry. Although globally, the disease is also found among people of Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and southern Asian descent.

The Importance of an Anemia Medical ID Bracelet

Wearing a medical ID at all times ensures your medical conditions are immediately known in an emergency.

When first responders see your MedicAlert ID, they know to contact MedicAlert to get your complete health record.

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What Are The Symptoms And Complications Of Sickle Cell Anemia?

One of the hallmark symptoms of sickle cell anemia is pain, which happens when oxygenated blood can’t get to different parts of the body. This is known as a pain crisis or sickle cell crisis and can occur anywhere in the body, including the arms, legs, joints, or back. These episodes of pain range from mild to severe and may last from a few hours to several weeks. 

Other signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia include:

  • Anemia: sickle cell anemia depletes the body’s hemoglobin reserves, which causes anemia. Severe anemia causes fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and pale skin. 
  • Frequent infections: sickle cells can damage your spleen, an organ that acts as a blood filter. This can leave you more vulnerable to life-threatening infections, like pneumonia. 
  • Swelling: sickle cells can block blood flow to your limbs, causing swelling of the hands and/or feet. 
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin: people with sickle cell anemia tend to have pale or yellowish skin due to bilirubin buildups. The condition can also cause yellowing of the whites of the eyes (icterus). 
  • Vision problems: sickle cells can clog the tiny blood vessels that supply the eyes with blood, damaging the retina and leading to vision problems. 

People living with sickle cell anemia may also have a number of complications that require immediate medical intervention, such as:

  • Blood clots
  • Acute chest syndrome (a type of lung infection)
  • Organ damage
  • Blindness
  • Leg ulcers
  • Sepsis (severe response to infection)
  • Stroke
  • Gallstones
  • Priapism (painful, long-lasting erections caused by blocked blood vessels in the penis)
  • Pregnancy complications

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How Is Sickle Cell Anemia Diagnosed?

In the United States, all states are required to test newborns, regardless of their ethnic background, for the sickle cell gene as part of routine screening. This is because early diagnosis can significantly reduce the risk for future complications. 

Sickle cell disease can also be diagnosed before birth by taking a sample of the liquid in the mother’s womb (amniotic fluid) if one or both parents have sickle cell anemia or the sickle cell trait. In adults, a blood test can check for the defective hemoglobin that causes abnormally-shaped red blood cells.

How Is Sickle Cell Anemia Treated?

Treatment of sickle cell anemia is usually aimed at reducing pain crises and preventing complications like organ damage and stroke. To date, the only known cure are stem cell transplantations, although they remain complex and risky procedures with serious side effects, so they are usually limited to children with severe sickle cell anemia. 

Treatments that can help manage symptoms, prevent complications, and prolong life include:

  • Pain relievers for acute or chronic pain
  • Antibiotics to prevent or manage infections
  • Childhood immunizations and annual flu shots
  • Hydroxyurea, a medication that makes sickle cells less sticky
  • Blood transfusions
  • Drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet

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