The 19th June is World Sickle Cell Day – a day of raising awareness!
World Sickle Cell Day is a United Nation’s recognised day to raise awareness of sickle cell at a national and international level. On 22nd December 2008, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that recognises sickle cell disease as a public health problem and “one of the world’s foremost genetic diseases.”
FACTS ABOUT SICKLE CELL DISORDER
- SCD affects millions around the world, particularly common in individuals in Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Central America, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, India, and Mediterranean countries.
- Sickle cell disorders are a group of illnesses which affect your red blood cells. Sickle cell is a genetic condition, which means it is passed on from your parents and you are born with it.
- Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle”. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious problems such infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.
- People with sickle cell are also at risk of complications stroke, acute chest syndrome, blindness, bone damage and priapism (a persistent, painful erection of the penis).
- Over time people with sickle cell can experience damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs, heart and spleen. Death can also result from complications of the disorder. Treatment of sickle cell mostly focuses on preventing and treating complications.
SYMPTOMS OF SICKLE CELL DISORDER
- Chronic (long term) anemia – when there are not enough red blood cells or Hb in your body
- Unpredictable pain (crisis) – when the blood vessels got blocked, it can cause pain and swelling in the area, also known as a crisis
- You may get tired easily or experience fatigue – constant tiredness, feeling weak or lacking in energy because of the anemia
- Jaundice – yellowing of the whites of the eyes and skin
The only possible cure for the disorder is bone marrow transplant but this is only possible for a limited number of affected individuals who have a suitable donor. As for the sickle cell crisis, they are treated with hydroxyurea or can be with strong painkillers such as morphine to control the pain.
THE SICKLE CELL TRAIT
Sickle cell trait is inherited when only one of your parents has passed on the sickle gene, and will never develop into sickle cell disorder.
The trait is not an illness, but if you are planning to have children, then certain factors have to be considered.
If your partner does not have sickle cell trait, then any children you have will not have sickle cell disorder, but they could have the trait (50% chance).
If you and your partner both have the trait, there is a 25% chance that any child conceived may have sickle cell disorder and 50% chance they will have the trait.