Impact of sickle cell disease on the Nigerian child


Sickle cell disease is a genetic multisystemic disorder characterised by chronic anaemia, episodes of acute and possible chronic pain, progressive organ failure and a possibility of reduced life expectancy. It is originally a blood disorder that is inherited from one’s parents but it can end up affecting all body systems. Although it has been declared a global disease, the highest burden of the disease is among the black race and Nigeria has the highest cases of sickle cell disease in the world.

The disease has a way of affecting every area of lives of those who inherited it and this inspired this article. I will be highlighting the health, psychosocial and financial implications of sickle cell disease on a Nigerian child with a focus on the interplay of these implications and possible solutions.

The health impacts of sickle cell disease on sufferers are the complications which remain the scariest implication of the disease. The red blood cells of those with sickle cell disease are sickle shaped instead of being biconcave. This abnormal shape makes the blood sticky and rigid. As a result, it obstructs blood vessels and impairs blood flow to organs causing different complications in the process. The abnormal shape also causes blood to break down more easily and frequently. Pain crisis is the most distinctive feature of sickle cell disease. It is said to be the most common symptom in people living with the disease who are over two years of age. This pain can be mild, moderate or severe. It can last for hours, days, weeks or even months. Another complication is chronic anaemia. The sickle-shaped red blood cells breaks down easily and puts the body in a chronic anaemic state.

Therefore, many people living with the disease usually need blood transfusion regularly depending on their disease severity. They are also predisposed to infections, impaired blood supply to the spleen caused by the sickle-shaped red blood cells causing the spleen which is important for immunity in the body to shrink and stop functioning, thus predisposing people with sickle cell disease to numerous infections.

Other complications include renal failure, retinopathy which can cause blindness, acute chest syndrome and pulmonary hypertension which are pulmonary complications, neurological complications like stroke. One of the commonest causes of stroke in children rem ains sickle cell disease. Not to forget complications like sensorineural deafness, leg ulcers, avascular necrosis, stunted growth, developmental delays, physical disabilities, enuresis, gallstones and heart diseases among others. Progressive organ damage due to inadequate supply of blood and oxygen to body organs occurs in sickle cell disease. Multiple organ failure and many of the other complications mentioned above can lead to early mortality for people living with the disease.

Media Contact
John Mathews
Journal Manager
Journal of Phlebology and Lymphology