World Sickle Cell Day: Patients with SCD and COVID-19
Updated Jun 18, 2020
One such condition is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). This condition affects the shape of red blood cells in our body. Red blood cells are important because they contain haemoglobin, which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. Think about what will happen if there is less oxygen - one will not be able to breathe, Dr Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine Researcher and Surgeon told IANSlife.
In patients with SCD, due to the "sickle shape" of the red blood cells, there is lower oxygen carrying capacity. We could have a serious problem in our hands if such patients acquire COVID-19. The coronavirus disease causes respiratory symptoms like cough, breathlessness, and pneumonia, and this could be life-threatening in patients with SCD.
Moreover, SCD reduces the immunity of a patient, and COVID-19 is an opportunistic infection, the doctor notes.
He adds: We need to understand what happens in SCD. Due to the improper shape of the red blood cells, they tend to get "stuck" in different tissues, blood vessels, and even organs. These cells also block the flow of blood to bones and organs. Over time, there is stress in these areas, which causes painful symptoms, reduced immunity, and other medical conditions.
Pneumonia, blood clots in the lungs, sepsis (severe infection) etc. have been reported as the causes of death in patients with COVID-19. These situations may be very common in patients with SCD, because they already have general body weakness and compromised healing mechanisms.
Therefore, it is very important to pay specific attention to the health of patients with SCD, especially if they are COVID-19 positive. Some preventive measures to be considered are:
Consult doctors regarding any special precautions to be taken, or changes in medications required
Enhance immunity with home remedies
Eat vitamin-rich foods. Vitamin C rich foods help in healing. Include fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet
Vitamin D deficiency is common in patients with SCD. Consume fish, eggs, and supplements (if required) to prevent further deficiency, especially because the person cannot go out in the sun (Vitamin D is synthesized by sun exposure)
Ideally, the person should stay at home. If this is not possible, stock up (but do not hoard!) on medicines and provisions to limit going out repeatedly
Maintain distancing even at home, especially from members who routinely go out for various chores
Disinfect the home and keep the living space clean.
Family members should keep an eye out for any signs of problem and seek immediate medical care, if required.
Treatment of COVID-19 in patients with SCD would involve medications to address the symptoms as well as oxygen therapy, if required along with blood transfusion or standard treatment to manage the sickle-cell symptoms. The goal is to prevent worsening of the condition, especially prevent severe respiratory symptoms; therefore, it is important for such patients to immediately undergo treatment and be under medical care until complete recovery.
As per the doctor, cell-based therapy is a regenerative medicine approach that can benefit patients with SCD and COVID-19. This therapy focuses on enhancing the healing potential of the body through use of cells and growth factors. Through this, the immunity of the body is enhanced, and defective cells can be repaired. Furthermore, the function of other cells in the body is enhanced, which results in improvement in the overall health of the patients.
Cell-based therapy is a minimally invasive treatment modality that is safe and effective in the treatment of various conditions.
The main aspect is to treat the problems associated with SCD at an early stage. Do not wait until the symptoms become severe or the immune system of a patient goes down to seek treatment. This is especially true in this pandemic. This virus might take a while to go; therefore, it is our duty to help individuals with SCD to tide over this crisis.