JAM | Jun 19, 2023

It’s World Sickle Cell Day! Five things you should know about sickle cell disease

Vanassa McKenzie

Vanassa McKenzie / Our Today

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Each year on the 19th day of June families, friends and healthcare providers observe World Sickle Cell Day to highlight the challenges that are associated with sickle cell disease and ways to create an inclusive society for those living with the medical condition.

Some 250 million people worldwide are living with this life-threatening blood disorder.

According to the Johns Hopkins Medicine, sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder which is marked by flawed hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body, which interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the tissues.

Living with sickle cell disease comes with several challenges such as severe pain, anemia, swelling of the hands and feet, vision problems and frequent infections.

Sickle cell disease is inherited

Sickle cell disease is not sexually transmitted or can be caught by interacting with persons living with the condition but instead is a disease that is inherited. A child can inherits two sickle cell genes, one from each parent who has sickle cell.

It is also possible for a child to inherit only one sickle gene which is classified as having a sickle cell trait.

Sickle cell is more common among people with African ancestry

While sickle cell affects all races, a vast majority of people living with sickle cell disease are of African ancestry. According to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) SCD occurs among about 1 out of every 365 Black or African-American births.

While about 1 in 13 Black or African-American babies is born with sickle cell trait (SCT).

Sickle cell disease is among persons from sub-Saharan Africa, South America, the Caribbean, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy.

In Jamaica, one in every 150 persons has sickle cell disease and one in every 10 persons has the trait according to the Health Ministry.

Sickle cell can be cured for some people

Sickle cell disease is curable with a bone marrow transplant but only works for some patients who have a relative who is a genetic match to become a donor.

A bone morrow transplant can become risky for some patients because it is not common to have a relative with a closely matched genetic.

The process involves transferring cells from the donors bone morrow and transplanting it into the patient’s morrow to successfully cure the disease.

Sickle cell can lead to fertility challenges

People living sickle cell disease can lead a long healthy life

Some women living with sickle cell disease may experience challenge in getting pregnant due to the medical condition which cause chronic inflammation and side effects of some treatment.

For some people fertility treatment can assist in them getting pregnant or others may decide to have a child through surrogacy.

Many people living with the medical condition are still able to live a long and healthy life with regular medical treatment.

Sickle cell disease is not a death sentence, there are many children who are born with the life-threatening disease who are grow up to become adults with early detection and medical care.

Persons living with sickle cell can improve their quality of life by doing regular checkups, following treatment plans by healthcare providers, eating healthy and drinking enough water.

Parents who are living with the condition should also take their child/children for early screening for the disease.

Send feedback to [email protected]


What To Read Next