Lets talk about Sickle Cell
The 19th June is World Sickle Cell Day and this year the Sickle Cell Society is celebrating 40 years of working in the sickle cell community, it is a 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 recognizes sickle cell disease as a public health problem and “one of the world’s foremost genetic diseases.” The resolution calls for members to raise awareness of sickle cell on June 19th of each year at national and international level.
According to the UN, an estimated 5, 00,000 are born every year with this condition and sadly half of them will die before their fifth birthday.
What is Sickle Cell (SCD)?
Sickle cell disorders are a group of illnesses which affect your red blood cells, it is a genetic condition, passed on from your parents not from other people.
Sickle cell disorders causes your normally round and flexible blood cells gets stuck in the blood vessels to become rigid and sticky instead of flowing smoothly, where the red blood cells become sickle shaped, their movements are impaired through the veins stopping the blood cells.
The oxygen and nutrients they carry are not transported well through the body and are unable to move freely around the body causing episodes of severe pain. These painful episodes are referred to as sickle cell crisis. They are treated with strong painkillers such as morphine to control the pain.
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), Excruciating bone crises, Low Immune System damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs, heart and spleen. Death can also result from complications of the disorder.
Girls living with sickle cell disorder often have shorter menstrual cycles, their periods last longer, are heavier, and they have a greater incidence of dysmenorrhea.
Significance of World Sickle Cell Day
- World Sickle Cell Day is celebrated to improve public awareness about the genetic disease sickle cell anaemia as a major health issue.
- All the agencies working for the sickle cell awareness organizes various health programs and events aimed to spread information about the disease, its symptoms, and its treatment and also to make easy access to the treatment for the disease at national and regional level.
- The day is celebrated to improve treatment outcomes of sickle cell disease through the early diagnosis.
- The day is a meeting of minds where the NGOs, doctors, governments and support groups come together to find strategies to eliminate the sickle cell disease.
- To raise awareness about sickle cell disease and support people by educating them.
- For the screening of patients, worldwide several health programs are organized.
- It is necessary for the new parents to get aware about the immunizations and its comprehensive care packages.
- To remove all myths and stigma associated with the sickle cell disease.
- For better prevention, research work and accurate implementation of the resource to minimize complications
Sickle Cell Anaemia: Key Facts
– The disease is described as sickle because the red blood cells are sickle or crescent-shaped and anaemia means lack of blood.
– Sickle cell anaemia disease affects millions of people around the world.
-Sickle cell anaemia disease is hereditary and not contagious.
– There is no definitive cure for sickle cell anaemia. However, it can be prevented by the pre-marital screening.
– Do you know that like any healthy people, patients suffering from sickle cell anaemia do not develop any kind of symptoms?
What causes a sickle cell crisis?
Most of the time, you won’t know what caused your sickle cell crisis. A crisis usually has more than one cause. However, you can do several things that might keep a crisis from occurring:
- Don’t drink a lot of alcohol.
- Don’t smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
- Exercise regularly but not so much that you become really tired. When you exercise, drink lots of fluids.
- Drink at least eight 12-ounce glasses of water a day during warm weather.
- Reduce or avoid stress. Talk to your doctor if you’re depressed or have problems with your family or job.
- Treat any infection as soon as it occurs. When in doubt, see your doctor.
- Wear warm clothes outside in cold weather and inside in air-conditioned rooms during hot weather. Also, don’t swim in cold water.
- Try to be positive about yourself.
- If you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant, get early prenatal care.
- Only travel in commercial airplanes. If you have to travel in an unpressurized aircraft, talk to your doctor about extra precautions.
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. A medicine called Hydroxyurea, can significantly reduce the number of painful crises and mostly focuses on preventing and treating complications.
The importance of knowing one’s genotype before marriage cannot be overemphasized, the combination of AS and AS, AS and AC cannot be risked because of the possibility of having SS.
It isn’t advisable for two sickle cell carriers to get married or get involved in a relationship or even procreate, individuals with AA genotype should prevent such genetic abnormality by marrying AS and AS, AS and AC.