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World Sickle Cell Day

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Image is from TheHealthSite.com

World Sickle Cell Day is acknowledged on June 19th each year to bring awareness to this widespread blood disorder. Sickle Cell Disease is the most frequent genetic disease worldwide and is present on four continents. The United Nations estimates that over 500,000 people are born with this condition each year and that 50% of those affected could die before the age of 5.

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle Cell Disease is a red blood cell disease that is inherited, meaning it is not contagious but a genetic event that people are born with. The affected red blood cells contain mostly hemoglobin S, considered an abnormal type of hemoglobin.

This abnormality causes many of the cells to form an abnormal sickle, or crescent-like, shape. Abnormally shaped blood cells are not able to travel the body as typical round cells, getting stuck or slowing down blood flow to affected areas, and causing further problems.

In addition to affecting blood flow, these crescent-shaped cells are also less hearty than traditional blood cells and are destroyed faster within the body. Patients frequent suffer from anemia, gallstones, and jaundice. Serious illness can be caused by limited blood flow to the lungs and limbs, including stroke and organ damage. Patients are also highly susceptible to bacteria and infection.

How is Sickle Cell Treated?

There is no universal cure for Sickle Cell Disease. Affected patients are divided into three primary groups including Sickle Cell Anemia, Sickle-Hemoglobin C Disease, and Sickle Beta Thalassemia. Treatments for each disease subgroup will vary.

Treatment of symptoms is common, using antibiotics for infection, blood transfusion for blood clots, and medication for pain. Frequent blood transfusion can cause their own problems too, increasing iron in the blood too much, so this is not an ideal solution. Current treatments focus on maintaining patient overall health, and treating symptoms as they arise.

Droxia, the manufacturer name for a drug called hydroxyurea, has been used with some success since FDA approval in 1998, but further research and treatment is still needed.

How Can I find out more about World Sickle Cell Day?

This specific day of awareness was created by a United Nations resolution and features worldwide activities, many of which can be found on the World Sickle Cell Day’s Facebook page.

While different areas may have additional Sickle Cell Awareness events, including Sickle Cell Awareness month in the United States, June 19th represents the united global event. World Sickle Cell Day online provides many resources about this global awareness event including history, the text of the United Nations resolution and involved organizations, and event listing of years past.

Contact these groups to join Sickle Cell awareness and fundraising events in your area.

 

 

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