September: Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month

Usually the more you can relate to something the more it interests you. When I found out many years ago that my uncle had sickle cell disease, I was curious as to what it was, what it meant to have sickle cell, and its implications.

Today while I was looking for a topic to write a blog about, I found out that a lot of people don’t know what sickle cell disease is unless a friend or someone in their family has it. Therefore, in honor of my uncle, I’d like to spread awareness about it.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects the red blood cells in people who have it. Sickle cell disease primarily affects those of African descent and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry, but the trait has also been found in those of Middle East, Indian, Latin American, Native American, and Mediterranean heritage.

Normal blood cells contain hemoglobin A as opposed to people with sickle cell whose blood cells contain mostly hemoglobin S. Normal red blood cells are shaped like a circle and travel through blood vessels easily. The red blood cells of people with sickle cell disease are unusually stiff and sticky and form the shape of a “sickle” (or letter “C”) when they lose oxygen. The abnormal shape of these cells makes it difficult for them to pass through small blood vessels. This means that less blood can reach certain parts of the body. If tissues don’t receive a normal blood supply they become damaged. This is what causes the implications of this disease. The lack of blood flow also causes pain, particularly in the arms, legs, and stomach.

There are common variations of the sickle cell gene that causes many different types of sickle cell disease and depending on the type you have, it can be mild to severe. People with sickle cell disease tend to be diagnosed at birth so they usually start treatment early. There is no cure for sickle cell disease but if you follow a treatment plan then you can live a normal life. Sickle cell is a complex disease however early diagnosis and prevention of complications is critical in the management of sickle cell disease.

To learn more about sickle cell disease, visit: