Today — June 19 — is World Sickle Cell Day.
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a condition that affects people around the world. There is a need to raise awareness about SCD due to the serious health problems that are associated with the disease.
SCD affects people of many racial and ethnic groups. In the United States, 90,000 to 100,000 people ― mainly African Americans ― have SCD. The disease occurs in among about one out of every 500 African-American births and among about one out of every 36,000 Hispanic-American births. Other people affected include those of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Asian origin. Additionally, more than two million people carry the sickle cell gene that allows them potentially to pass the disease on to their children.
SCD causes red blood cells to become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle”. The sickle-shaped cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. When a person doesn’t have enough red blood cells, they develop anemia. Also, when these misshaped blood cells travel through small blood vessels, they can get stuck and clog blood flow. Whenever this happens, it results in severe pain and organ damage and can cause serious infections.
Although there is not a cure for SCD at this time, people with the disease can live productive lives and enjoy most of the activities that people without SCD do. These are some things that people with SCD can do to stay as healthy as possible:
- Get regular checkups. Regular examinations by a primary care provider can help prevent some serious complications from arising.
- Prevent infections. Common illnesses like influenza can quickly become dangerous for a child with SCD. The best defense is to take simple steps to help prevent infections. See tips to help avoid getting an infection.
- Learn healthy habits. People with SCD should drink eight to ten glasses of water every day and eat healthy food. They also should try not to get too hot, too cold, or too tired.
- Look for clinical studies. New clinical research studies are happening all the time to find better treatments and, hopefully, a cure for SCD. People who take part in these studies might have access to new medicines and treatments.
- Get support. People with SCD should find a patient support group or other organization in the community that can provide information, assistance, and support. View the Sickle Cell Disease National Resource Directory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for a list of organizations by state.
- Tip Sheet: Living Well with Sickle Cell Disease (CDC)
- Podcast: Sickle Cell Disease: What You Should Know (CDC)
- Sickle Cell facts, stats, research, free materials & more (CDC)
- Study Overview: Sickle Cell Disease – do you know your status? (CDC)
- Research & Screening info (Sickle Cell Disease Association of America)
- Success Story: Reducing the Burden of Sickle Cell Disease (National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute)