The month of september is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Most people don’t know even the basics about Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), let alone that it has a whole month dedicated to its awareness. I’m very passionate about bringing awareness to this horrible disease because I, myself, have Sickle Cell Disease. I’ve been dealing with this illness for my entire life, so I know firsthand that a little knowledge goes a long way.
About Sickle Cell Disease
SCD is a disorder that affects the hemoglobin, which is the molecule in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells throughout the body. When the hemoglobin is affected this way it is referred to as hemoglobin S. Hemoglobin S changes the shape of red blood cells from regular sphere shaped to sickle shaped or cresent shaped. The then fragile sickle shaped cells deliver less oxygen throughout the body. The breakdown of the RBC causes extreme pain, anemia, shortness of breath, and delayed growth and development. This can also lead to organ damage in the lungs, kidneys, spleen and brain. SCD is more commonly inherited in African Americans; 1 in 500 are born with the disease. But it also affects people of the Arabian, Greek, Maltese, Italian, Turkish, and Indian ancestry. SCD is inherited in the same way physical traits like eye and hair color are inherited; SCD is not contagious.
Managing Sickle Cell Disease
SCD can’t be cured but there are ways to manage the disease:
- Opioid pain medications
- Anti-Inflammatory meds
- Antibiotics for infections
- Intravenous and/or oral fluids
Transfusions of red blood cells are given for severe anemia. Hydroxyurea is the only FDA approved medication proven to prevent painful episodes in SCD; it also helps reduce transfusions and hospitalizations.
There are also pain management clinics open specifically for people with SCD, that I, myself, go to for treatment when hurting or dehydrated.
Ways To Help/Bringing Awareness
Donating blood and participating in blood drives is one way of helping people with SCD. A simple act of donating blood can save the lives of many people. Also bringing more awareness to the disease simply by telling others about the illness can go a long ways. There are also walk-a-thons organized for bringing awareness to SCD and for raising money for research.
For more information on Sickle Cell Disease, go to: www.sicklecelldisease.org
Spread The Word!