Anyone with an idea on sickle cell anaemia has no doubt heard these words frequently. ‘S(he) is having a crisis’. What many are usually at a loss at is what exactly those words mean. All they know is that during that particular moment, screams and ceaseless tears are what they see and hear. What then is a sickle cell crisis? Many have defined it differently. An online medical site defined it as:
‘The damaged sickle red blood cells also clump together and stick to the walls of blood vessels, blocking blood flow. This can cause severe pain and permanent damage to the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, bones, and spleen. Severe pain is an emergency called acute sickle cell crisis.’
From this definition, one can easily get an idea of what a sickle cell crisis entails. Simply put, a crisis occurs when the red blood cells of a sickle cell patient take on an abnormal sickle shape. When this happens, these sickle shaped red cells block the blood flow around blood vessels especially around the joints which prevent normal blood flow. The results are usually painful sometimes swollen joints that result in acute pain. This can most often than not, lead to organ damage and sometimes death. Thus the name sickle cell crisis.
Apart from this knowledge on the abnormality of red blood cells, it is still sometimes difficult to really understand what could be the possible causes of this crisis. However, scientific journals have come up with some pointers on possible trigger causes of a crisis which in a way collaborates with my own personal experience.
POSSIBLE TRIGGER FACTORS
These trigger factors will be discussed in detail in subsequent topics on this series but for now, I would like to give them as summary pointers.
- COLD. Yes cold is one of the trigger factors to a sickle cell crisis. Sickle cell patients do not fare well in cold places and conditions. This explains why most crises occur during extreme cold weather. When this is understood as a trigger factor, precautions are taken to minimise the frequency of crises as much as possible. This means dressing warm, avoiding cold drinks and doing everything to keep oneself warm always especially during cold periods.
- STRESS. Stress is not good for everybody. It is especially true for sickle cell patients. Avoiding strenuous activities is a great step forward to minimising and reducing the frequency of crises. It is therefore imperative to be alert to situations that cause stress and avoid them.
- DEHYDRATION. When blood cells take the sickle shape and block the blood flow, hydration is one of the best medicines to take. As such, patients are always encouraged to drink lots and lots of water. Staying hydrated is very important to avoid recurrent crises especially in hot places.
- MALARIA. Malaria is one of the trigger factors of a crisis especially in tropical countries. Patients are therefore encouraged to use mosquito nets always.
The list can go on. Other factors could be poor feeding habits and inadequate sleep. The crux of the matter is that, identifying factors that trigger a crisis on you as an individual warrior or by a care taker is one huge step towards minimising the rate and frequency of crises and promoting a healthy productive life for a warrior. On crises and trigger factors, more can be read here :http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca/signs
ARREY E. AGBOR-NDAKAW