Spotlight of Sickle Cell Disease

Spotlight of Sickle Cell Disease

Approximately 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease. Although the exact number of people living with sickle cell disease is unknown, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says more than 2.5 million people have the sickle trait.

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and Paris Community Hospital/Family Medical Center wants to share some important information about this genetic blood disorder affecting so many.

sickle cellsWhat is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder that affects red blood cells in the body. People who have sickle cell have abnormal hemoglobin, referred to as hemoglobin S, in their red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein in the blood stream that helps carry oxygen throughout the body.

Who has sickle cell?

Sickle cell is not a virus that can be spread through coughing, touching, or sneezing. It’s a part of your genetic make-up from birth. Babies born with sickle cell disease have inherited one abnormal hemoglobin gene from each parent. These two abnormal genes are what cause the body’s red blood cells to change into a sickle-shape.

While studies have shown that sick cell disease primarily affects people of African descent, it’s also present among people of Spanish, French, Greek, and Turkish. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle cell occurs in 1 out of every 365 African-American births and in 1 out of every 16,000 Hispanic-American births in the US. Only 1 in 13 African-American babies will be born with sickle cell trait.

How does sickle cell disease affect the body?

When hemoglobin blood cells become sickle-shaped it can be difficult for them to pass through smaller blood vessels to carry the needed oxygen to certain areas of the body. These sickle-shaped cells can also cause a blockage in the smaller blood vessels and decrease the amount of blood that can reach that part of the body. When this happens, tissue can become severely damaged because it’s not receiving the normal amount of blood flow.

Sickle cell disease is a chronic blood disorder that can cause pain to the lower extremities and back, skin infections, severe blood clots, strokes, vision loss, organ failure, and tissue damage.

Both sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait can only be diagnosed through a blood test. Even though there’s no cure for sickle cell disease it can be managed through proper treatment from a healthcare professional. Effective treatment for people living with sickle cell starts with an early diagnosis, preferably as a newborn

Living with Sickle Cell disease

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says a person with sickle cell disease can prevent and control complications by doing the following:

  • Avoid situations that can set off a crisis, such as extreme heat or cold
  • Avoid overexertion and dehydration
  • Take all medications as prescribed by a healthcare provider
  • Don’t travel in an aircraft that is unpressurized

People with sickle cell who strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle and manage their condition can improve their quality of life.

If you or your child is diagnosed with sickle cell disease and need help managing it, contact a primary care provider at Paris Community Hospital/Family Medical Center at (217) 463-1946.