Living with Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia affects millions of people throughout the world. It is particularly common among people whose ancestors came from sub-Saharan Africa, Spanish-speaking regions (South America, Cuba, Central America), Saudi Arabia, India, and Mediterranean countries, such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy. In the USA, sickle cell disease occurs in about 1 in every 500 African-American births and 1 in every 1,000-1,400 Hispanic-American births.

According to, sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited disorder in which the shape of red blood cells are C – shaped sickles that can get stuck in blood vessels and block them. This blockage is called a pain crisis or a sickle crisis.

I recently met Miss Zallah Zamani, a sickle sell advocate and I asked her what it was like living with this illness.  Zamani said, “You can live a full, active life when you have sickle cell disease. You can take part in most of the same activities as other people. Making smart choices is important in keeping a minor illness from flaring into a crisis.You won’t have total control over how SCD affects your body. But you can take steps to manage pain and to reduce your chances of problems.”

Dealing with the Pain

SCD varies widely from person to person. The severity of pain can range from mild to severe. Likewise, the methods to relieve it also can differ. Here are some good guidelines to follow:

  • Talk to your doctor. Discuss your symptoms and find ways to relieve your pain. This may include medicine and other relief methods, including heating pads or physical therapy.
  • Use pain medicines with caution. Talk to your doctor about what over-the-counter drugs are best for you. Some medication, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) may affect your kidneys.
  • Look for pain triggers. Every time you’re in sudden pain, try to figure out what may have caused it.
  • Although it’s not obvious at first, having a long-running list over time could help you find a link.


Finding what works for you.

There isn’t one pain relief that works for everybody. You may have to try different things, such as a warm bath, a massage, or acupuncture. Also, do the things that help you relax, like listening to the Quran, nasheeds, art therapy or hanging out with friends.

Helpful Tips to note

SCD is a complex disease, so it’s important to see your doctor for regular health checkups. They could help you cut down on the number of problems that may need urgent medical care. Here are some other ways to take care of yourself:

  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Being dehydrated can increase your risk of a sickle crisis, so get plenty of water — about 8 glasses a day.  Drink more fluid if you’re exercising or in hot weather

  • Eat right.

Have plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein.

  • Exercise in moderation.

Aim for about 2½ hours of moderate exercise a week. Talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Physical activity is the key to staying healthy. At the same time, you don’t want to overdo it. Rest when you get tired.

 Harmful things to avoid

  • Take your medicine. Make sure you take your prescription medicine as directed; do not abuse them.
  • Extreme temperatures. Extreme heat or cold, or any swift changes in temperatures could set off a crisis.
  • High Altitude. Lack of oxygen at high altitudes could trigger a crisis. Planes, because they’re pressurized, shouldn’t be a problem.
  • It can make you dehydrated.
  • This can trigger a lung condition called acute chest syndrome. This is when sickle cells stick together and block oxygen from getting into your lungs.
  • Common illnesses can be very serious for people with SCD. Always wash your hands before eating or after using the bathroom. Wash your fruits and veggies, and avoid raw meat, eggs and unpasteurized milk.
  • It’s hard to avoid, but stress can trigger a crisis, so try to take time to relax or find techniques that help you calm down.
  • Heavy physical labor. Though it’s good to get moderate exercise, very intense activities that are exhausting or leave you out of breath should be avoided.

Facts and Myths of Sickle cell anemia


  • Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder of the hemoglobin in the blood
  • It requires the inheritance of two sickle cell genes
  • There is no current treatment for sickle cell but bone marrow transplant looks promising
  • Sickle cell is a life-long illness


  • People living with sickle cell cannot have a normal life
  • It is contagious
  • All patients that pass a certain age will not die of the sickle cell disease.



Amina Muhammed

Amina Muhammed is the Executive Assistant of Hayati Magazine. Passionate about writing and fashion, she is a geography graduate. A remote sensing nerd, Muhammed also enjoys writing poetry and loves cooking.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply