A blood test is done to assess whether you have sickle cell disease (SCD) or a sickle cell characteristic. In Sickle Cell Disease, the red blood cells are deformed because they contain an irregular type of haemoglobin, called haemoglobin S, rather than haemoglobin A. Sickle cells are in a similar shape a crescent moon in their form. Standard RBCs appear like hollow circles.
The sickle cell test is an integral part of a child’s routine screening after birth. It can be used, however for older children and adults if required. Sickle blood cells are weakened faster than normal blood cells by the body. This may result in anaemia.
Sickle cells can also become stuck and block or lower the flow of blood into the blood vessels. This can damage tissues, muscles and bones and can cause life threats. A blood test using the process called high-performance liquid chromatography (HCP) is the most efficient way of checking sickle cell or sickle cell disease (HPLC). This test will determine the type of haemoglobin. A genetic test can be performed to validate the findings of HPLC.
Every individual inherits two sets of genes from their parents. These genes help to develop haemoglobin A, while the other set consists of S type haemoglobin. People having A-type haemoglobin have normal red blood cells until affected by a blood disease. While S type carries the sickle trait, but it does not mean that they also have the sickle disease. This condition is usually harmless. One set of haemoglobin aid in the development of normal haemoglobin while the other set may result in sickle disease.
Sickle cell disease (SCD)
SCD is a category of RBC diseases that have been transmitted through DNA mutation and is known as a sickle for the C-shaped structure. Sickle cells are also sticky and rough. The risk of blood clots may be increased. These cells even die off early. This leads to an ongoing RBC shortage. The symptoms of SCD are-
- Anaemia, it can result in fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Yellowing of the skin and eyes
- Blocked blood flow can result in periodic pain
- Swollen hands and feet
- Frequent infections
- Delayed growth
- Vision problems
Sickle cell trait
Sickle traits are genetically carried from individual to their next generation. One may not necessarily have sickle trait disease but can act as a carrier for the next generation. People possessing these traits may have a higher risk of sudden death.
Sickle cell test
SCD screening is done regularly for newborns. This can only be detected via diagnosis. This is because children with SCD are more vulnerable within weeks of birth to severe infections. Early monitoring helps guarantee that SCD children are treated adequately to protect their health.
Other than newborns, the following people should be tested.
- Immigrants who haven’t been tested in their home countries
- Children who move from one state to another and haven’t been tested
- Anyone displaying symptoms of the disease
Sickle cell test procedure
For the sickle cell test, no preparation is needed. However, after 90 days, the blood transfusion may provide incorrect results. This is because, during the transfusion S haemoglobin may reduce, i.e. the protein responsible for SCD, in the blood can be decreased by transfusion. If you have been exposed to a recent transfusion, even if you have SCD, you may have a regular cell sickle test result. The doctor may take your blood sample to test SCD.
A nurse or laboratory technician will put an elastic strap around the top arm to swell the vein with blood. Then they put a needle in the vein gently. Naturally, the blood flows through the needle’s channel. The nurse or the laboratory tech takes out the needle and covers the perpendicular wound with a bandage when enough blood is sufficient for the examination. The nurse or tech may use a sharp tool called a lance to penetrate the skin on a heel or finger this is how young children are examined. On a slide or a test stripe, they will collect the blood.
Risks associated with sickle cell test procedure
A standard blood test is taken the sickle cell test, It’s very unlikely to have complications. You may feel a little dizzy or lightheaded after the examination, but when you sit down for a few minutes, these symptoms vanish.
It can also help to eat a snack. The blister or wound is very slightly contaminated, but this is usually avoided by the rubbing alcohol before the procedure. If a bruise occurs, apply a warm compress on the wound. An irregular type of haemoglobin called haemoglobin S can be detected by the laboratory technician analysing the blood sample.
The RBCs-borne protein is normal haemoglobin. It absorbs oxygen in the lungs and delivers them in the body to other tissues and organs. The haemoglobin blueprint resides in your DNA like any other protein. It’s the product the genes are made of. If one of the genes is modified or mutated, the way the haemoglobin functions can be changed. Such mutated or irregular haemoglobin can lead to SCD-shaped RBCs.
A sickle cell test only searches for the presence of SCD-causing haemoglobin, this test is ordinary. It means you have normal haemoglobin. You have sickle-cell characteristics or SCDs because of good test results. If the result is positive, a second test called haemoglobin electrophoresis will possibly be requested by your doctor. This helps to assess the condition.
If the examination reveals that you are diagnosed with SCD, you have two defective haemoglobin genes. If the examination reveals you have only one of the defective genes and no symptoms, the sickle cell disease will probably be diagnosed by your doctor.
After the test is performed, you can get back to your daily activities. You will be informed by the lab technician about the expected date of result. The results for adults is generally released sooner than children. For infants, it may take up to two weeks to produce the result. However, this varies from state to state.
In case you are diagnosed with sickle cell test, the doctor may advise you to undergo several other tests to rule out any underlying disease and to confirm that you have sickle cell disease. In case you have sickle cell disease, the doctor may customize a treatment plan for you.