Get familiar with sickle cell disease
Sickle-cell disease (SCD) is a type of genetic blood disorder or disease inherited from a person’s parents. The most common type is known as sickle-cell anaemia (SCA). The condition occurs as a result of an abnormality in the haemoglobin (the oxygen-carrying protein) found in red blood cells. It is a disorder, where the body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells, shaped like a half moon or crescent. (Imagine or picture a half doughnut or banana). Because of their abnormal shape, the cells can often get stuck in the blood vessels and block the normal blood flow or passage. The cells also do not carry enough oxygen for the body and do not last as long as normal (round shaped) red blood cells.
Common symptoms of the disease include painful episodes, such as “sickle-cell crisis” (attacks of pain); anaemia (a condition where red blood cells cannot carry enough oxygen around the body), which can cause tiredness and shortness of breath; swelling in the hands, feet and joints; increased risk of serious infections (mainly bacterial infections); and stroke. Long term pain may also develop as people get older.
- Sickle cell disease (SCD), or sickle cell anaemia, is a major genetic disease that affects most countries in the African Region.
- Blood clots, as a result of sickle cell disease, can cause extreme pain in the back, chest, hands and feet.
- The disrupted blood flow, occurring in sickle cell disease, can also cause damage to bones, muscles and organs.
- People with sickle cell disease often feel weak, tired and look pale. The whites of the eyes and skin often have a yellowish tint.
- Environmental factors often play a role in the occurrence of painful attacks.
- Common triggers include cold temperatures, dehydration, excessive amounts of exercise and tobacco smoke.
- Other triggers such as plane flights and high altitudes can also trigger an attack.
- Poor nutrition is also a factor or trigger, as well as poor health facilities.
- As of 2015 about 4.4 million people were said to have the sickle-cell disease, while an additional 43 million have the sickle-cell trait.
- Around 80% of sickle-cell disease cases are believed to occur in sub-Saharan Africa.
- In 2015, sickle cell disease resulted in about 114,800 deaths.