Are You Sickle Cell Smart?

1,000 babies in the United States are born with sickle cell disease every year. Currently, there are between 70,000-100,000 people in the U.S. who have sickle cell disease. This disorder is most prevalent in people with ancestors from African, Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern countries. In honor of World Sickle Cell Awareness Day on June 19th, Harbin Clinic has compiled some frequently asked questions about the disease.   

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is a genetic blood disorder. People with this disease have red blood cells that become hard and pointed instead of soft and round, making it difficult for the cells to pass through small blood vessels. As a result, less blood travels throughout the body which then starts to damages the internal organs, causing anemia, pain and many other health issues.

Is this disorder preventable?

Unfortunately, no. Because sickle cell is inherited, there are no preventive methods that can stop this disease from developing. Most of the time, people are diagnosed with this illness as an infant. What people aren’t aware of is whether or not they carry the gene for this disease.

What is the sickle cell trait?

The sickle cell trait is the inherited gene for sickle cell disease. Carrying this gene increases the chance of your children carrying the sickle cell trait but not sickle cell disease. However, if you have children with someone who also carries the trait, there is a 25 percent chance that your children will have sickle cell disease.

How are you screened for the sickle cell trait?

A simple blood test and a lab technique that zaps an electric current through a solution of your blood determines the type of hemoglobin you have and if you carry the sickle cell trait.

Are there any treatments?

Treatments for sickle cell disease aim to relieve pain, infection and other medical complications that arises from this anemic disorder. Current treatments include oxygen therapy, fluids, and a medicine called hydroxyurea which creates fetal hemoglobin that prevents red blood cells from sickling.

For more information about sickle cell disease visit www.sicklecelldisease.org. If you or your family member needs to be tested for the sickle trait, call 888.427.2461 to make an appointment with a Harbin Clinic Primary Care provider.