Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that affects the molecule in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to the body (hemoglobin.) People with this disorder have molecules called hemoglobin S, which make red blood cells have a sickle, or crescent, shape.
When red blood cells take on the abnormal shape, they break down prematurely, which can cause shortness of breath, fatigue and delayed growth and development in children. The condition may also cause yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice).
The disease can also lead to high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs (pulmonary hypertension); this condition can lead to heart failure.
Even though this condition is genetic (passed on from parent to child), a child might not necessarily get a diagnosis as soon as he or she is born. Sometimes, symptoms may have to manifest before a diagnosis can be given.
One symptom that may indicate your child has sickle cell is when one of his or her fingers or toes becomes entirely swollen and inflamed. This condition is known as dactylitis.
While dactylitis can be an indication of several different conditions, when it is seen in infants between the ages of 6 and 9 months, it is a good indicator of sickle cell and you should visit your doctor immediately.
Any time your child experiences foot pain of any kind, he or she should be seen by a podiatrist as soon as possible. Some childhood foot problems can be attributed to growing pains or bumps and bruises but some, like dactylitis, can be an indication of a far greater problem. Only a trained physician can know the difference, so if you have concerns about your child’s foot health, schedule an appointment right away with Dr. Andrew Schneider.