The red blood cell is an important cell component of the blood and functions to deliver oxygen to all the tissues. Each red blood cell contains what is called hemoglobin, the vehicle for carrying oxygen within the red blood cell. Abnormalities of the hemoglobin in the red blood cell can make the red blood cell function abnormally and cause serious problems in tissues of the body including the bone, brain, intestines, lung and even the kidney.
Sickle cell disease is also called sickle cell anemia or drepanocytosis. It is a hereditary disorder of red blood cells most common in Africa and in persons of African descent where under stressful conditions such as infection, dehydration or low oxygen tissue supply, the red blood cells assume an abnormal rigid sickle shape- a process called sickling. Sickling decreases the flexibility of the red blood cell makes the red blood cell unable to pass through the blood vessels easily and for this reason reduces oxygen supply to tissues including the kidneys. If this sickling happens sufficiently, it can cause damage in these tissues and even death.
The prevalence of sickle cell disease is highest in Nigeria where over a million people live with the full sickle cell disease and over 30 million with the sickle cell trait.
Stay tuned for an update to this post for a full description of how this common, dangerous and important disease can affect the kidney. We will discuss what can be done to reduce the impact of the disease on the kidney as well.