Today is World Sickle Cell Day!
Established in 2008, this international awareness day is aimed to increase public awareness and an understanding of sickle cell diseases, while educating those who may not know enough about experiences patients and their families and/or caregivers go through.
The term sickle cell disease (SCD) describes a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. People with SCD have abnormal hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S or sickle hemoglobin, in their red blood cells. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.
Symptoms of SCD include:
Painful swelling of the hands and feet (dactylitis)
Fatigue or fussiness from anemia
A yellowish color of the skin (jaundice) or of the whites of the eyes (icteris)
So, in honor of today – here are 5 things you should know about sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease affects mostly African Americans in the US
While sickle cell disease occurs worldwide in people of diverse racial and ethnic origins, in the United States, it’s estimated that sickle cell disease affects mainly African Americans; it occurs in about 1 out of every 365 African American births.
2. Sickle cell trait – what is it?
About 1 in 13 African Americans are born with sickle cell trait, which occurs when someone inherits a copy of the sickle globin gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other. Those who have sickle cell disease inherit two copies of the sickle gene. Since people with sickle cell trait don’t have disease symptoms, many who are carriers are not aware that they have it. If sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait runs in your family, consider genetic counseling.
3. Sickle cell disease is beatable!
While there is currently no widely available cure, great strides have been made. Successes include antibiotics to prevent and treat infections (which have reduced childhood deaths of sickle cell by more than 90%), as well as blood screening tests on newborns which today are performed in all US states. And research suggests that bone marrow transplants can cure sickle cell disease in some patients.
With healthy habits, many people with sickle cell anemia can live full lives.