SICKLE CELL DISEASE – Simple Facts
Sickle Cell Disease is the commonest genetic disease in Nigeria. 2-3 out of every 100 Nigerians have the sickle cell disease (Hb SS + Hb SC) while 1 out of every 4 Nigerians has the sickle trait (Hb AS).
Sickle cell disease is a group of disorders that affects hemoglobin, the molecule in the red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells throughout the body. People with this disorder have hemoglobin S, with a sickle, or crescent, shape different from normal red cells.
Early in childhood, signs and symptoms begin to show. Characteristics of this disorder include a low number of red blood cells (anemia), repeated infections, and recurring episodes of pain. The severity of symptoms varies from person to person. Some people have mild symptoms, while others are frequently hospitalized for more serious complications.
The signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease are caused by the sickling of red blood cells. When red blood cells sickle, they break down prematurely, which can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and delayed growth and development in children. The rapid breakdown of red blood cells may also cause yellowing of the eyes and skin, which are signs of jaundice.
Painful episodes can occur when sickled red blood cells, which are stiff and inflexible, get stuck in small blood vessels. These episodes deprive tissues and organs of oxygen-rich blood and can lead to organ damage, especially in the lungs, kidneys, spleen, and brain.
A particularly serious complication of sickle cell disease is high blood pressure in the blood vessels that supply the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).
Pulmonary hypertension occurs in about one-third of adults with sickle cell disease and can lead to heart failure.
But the Good News !!!
- You can prevent sickle cell disease in your family by knowing your genotype at a very young age, and eventually making an informed decision when the time comes to choose a life partner.
- You can take good care of yourself by ensuring that you visit your doctor regularly to live a meaningful and productive life.
- Bone Marrow /Stem Cell Transplantation as CURE for sufferers is now available at specialized centres albeit at a very expensive cost!!!