SEPTEMBER IS SICKLE CELL AWARENESS MONTH
September 1st marks the beginning of activities nationwide for Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Community organizations, medical facilities that provide comprehensive treatment for children and adults living with sickle cell, are hosting a variety of activities to raise awareness for this disorder.
Sickle Cell Disease is a group of inherited hemoglobin (blood) disorders that are passed on from both parents to their child. Hemoglobin, a molecule in the red blood cell that carries the oxygen molecule and gives blood its red color, has a mutation that causes some red blood cells (RBCs) to lose its round shape to become crescent or sickle shape. RBCs are round a pliable, allowing the cells to travel through capillaries and other small vessels. What the effect of cells sickling has on the RBC is:
• The red blood cells lose its round flexible shape
• The cell sickles and loses its ability to carry the oxygen molecule.
• Sickled red blood also becomes sticky and clump together “logjam.”
• Sticky sickled cells block blood flow through vessels (vaso-occlusion).
• The area where vaso-occlusion happens becomes inflamed and painful.
Vaso-occlusion known as “crisis” can happen anywhere in the body; an arm, leg, back, or abdomen. In children, severe crises are frequent in their hands, feet, arms, and legs. If vaso-occlusion happens in a primary organ like the brain, it is tantamount to having a stroke. In the lungs, a pulmonary embolism, or in the heart, a cardiac incident.
This disease is marked by extreme pain and can be life-threatening. However, through newborn screening, children at-risk for inheriting sickle cell disease can be identified early and placed in a comprehensive treatment program. Early intervention and life-long management have remarkable effects in improving the quality of life of people living with Sickle Cell Disease.
Sickle Cell Disease is the most common inherited disorder in the world. More than 300 million people worldwide are affected. Countless more carry a hemoglobin trait.
The commitment to raising public awareness for sickle cell lies in the fact that children are still being born into lives defined by pain and disability. Until a viable and compassionate cure is found, and is available to all; Sickle Cell Advocates, Caregivers, Healthcare Professionals and other Concerned Supporters will continue to speak collectively and keep working to diminish the suffering caused by this condition.
To learn more see Sickle Cell Disease Association of America (SCDAA)