Shining The Light On Sickle Cell

Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited form of anaemia. The condition is as a result of not having enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout the body.

In Sickle cell anaemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. The irregular shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which slow or block blood and oxygen flow in parts of the body.

In Jamaica, 10% of the population carry the Sickle Cell trait and are at risk of having a child with SCD. The illness is relatively high in Jamaica as approximately 300 children are born with SCD every year. The Sickle Cell gene is passed from generation to generation in a pattern of inheritance called autosomal recessive inheritance. What this means is that both parents must pass on the defective form of the gene for a child to be affected. If only one parent passes the sickle cell gene to the child, then the child will have the Sickle Cell Trait.

Symptoms of the disease may include:

• Painful swelling of the hands and feet.

• Fatigue

• Yellowish colour of the skin (jaundice) or the white of the eyes (icterus)

See your doctor or emergency medical care if any of these problems develop:

• Swelling in the hands of feet.

• Abdominal swelling- especially if the area is tender to touch.

• Unexplained episodes of severe pain in the abdomen, chest, bones, joints.

• Yellow tint to the skin or white of the eyes

• Pale skin or nail beds

• Signs and symptoms of a stroke

• Fever as this is the first sigh of an infection.

Frequent infections can delay growth and cause vision problems as the effects of the illness vary from person to person and can change over time.

Sickle Cell is diagnosed with the use of a blood test to determine if the patient has the sickle cell disease or the sickle cell trait. Doctors can diagnose SCD before a baby is born by testing samples of the amniotic fluid or tissue taken from the placenta.

The only cure for SCD is bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. But, there are also treatments that can help to relieve symptoms, lessen complications and prolong life. To stay as healthy as possible, ensure you or your loved one receive regular medical care, live a healthy lifestyle and avoid situations that may trigger a pain crisis.

Your health…is your responsibility!

Juliane Robinson

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