Sickle Cell Anemia

Causes and Cure for Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a common complication of sickle cell disease (SCD), a hereditary blood disorder that causes red blood cells to become misshapen and to break down. Normally, red blood cells are round and move easily throughout the body. But when sickle cell disease occurs, the red blood cells become rigid and take on a crescent—or sickle—shape, getting stuck in small blood vessels and slowing or blocking blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body. When the sickle cells get stuck, they can cause pain and other serious problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke. Anemia frequently occurs in patients with SCD because the red blood cells die early, meaning there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. About 100,000 people in the United States have sickle cell disease, most of whom are or African-American or Hispanic descent.

While the only cure for SCD is a bone marrow transplant (also called a stem cell transplant), medical marijuana has been shown to bring relief to some of its painful symptoms. A 2010 Canadian study on cannabis as a chronic pain management therapy found that the use of medical marijuana reduced the intensity of pain, improved sleep and was well tolerated.

Current Research of Medical Marijuana

In July 2018, researchers announced the first clinical study focused on the effectiveness of cannabis oil in sickle-cell-disease-related pain management. Deb McGhee McCrary, Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia president and CEO, said in a news release, “These trials will fully explore the pain relief properties of medical cannabis as an alternative to highly addictive opioids.”

The information provided should not be used as a substitution for physician knowledge. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before starting any new treatment or discontinuing an existing treatment with medicinal marijuana.

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