June 19th is World Sickle Cell Day across the globe! Every year, the international health community recognizes Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) as a debilitating genetic disease that impacts families across the globe. Keeping individuals and communities informed about the struggles that come with daily management of SCD, can help raise awareness as well as debunk stereotypes and stigmas associated with persons who have SCD.
At birth, every child has a newborn screening test performed to screen for different genetic disorders. Newborn screening consists of testing newborns for certain harmful or potentially fatal disorders that aren’t otherwise apparent at birth. In 1987, sickle cell disease was added to this testing panel to screen newborns for sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait for South Carolina. It is very important to know if your newborn has trait, because you, your partner, and family can determine if additional screening is necessary and what additional steps you should take.
Today is World Sickle Cell Day. Sickle cell disease affects millions of people worldwide and is particularly common among people originating from sub-Saharan Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, South America and Central America, and Mediterranean countries, such as Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. The red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle” and the cells die early, which causes a constant storage of red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are round and move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
SCD affects approximately 100,000 Americans and occurs in about 1 out of every 365 African-American births.
To get SCD, the trait must be inherited from both parents who already have the SCD trait. People with the trait usually do not have any of the signs of the disease and live a normal life, but they can pass the trait to their children.
SCD is diagnosed with a simple blood test. It is most often found at birth during routine newborn screening tests. Early diagnosis and treatment are important.
The only cure for SCD is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. These transplants are very risky, and can have serious side effects, including death. For the transplant to work, the bone marrow must be a close match (usually a brother or sister).