Sickle Cell Disease, which is commonly found as Sickle Cell Anemia, is a fairly common blood disorder that is inherited. In the United States, about 100,000 people have this disease at any given time. It’s a fairly serious disorder because instead of healthy red blood cells that can absorb oxygen and transform their shapes, the sickle cells are shaped like crescents. This creates numerous health risks for that person.
1. They’re Super Sticky
The biggest danger of sickle cell anemia is that the shape of the red blood cell isn’t flexible. This causes them to get stuck as they float through the circulatory system and they’ll often get stuck. If they get stuck in a tiny capillary, they will block it. The end result and be a lot of pain, organ damage, and an increased chance of an infection.
2. It’s Not a Trait
Sometimes this disease is associated with Sickle Cell Trait, but that’s not an accurate association. Sickle Cell Trait causes low oxygen levels, early dehydration, and trouble moving oxygen about at high levels. People with this trait do not develop the disease, but they can pass the trait onto their children.
3. Common Traits
Sickle Cell Disease overall is the most common genetic disorder that people have. About 1,000 infants are born with it every year in the United States. This is more than twice the amount of people who are believed to be living with cystic fibrosis, which is the second common genetic disorder. From a global perspective, about 500k infants are born with the disorder every year.
4. It’s Not Contagious
Sickle cell anemia is a disease, but it isn’t a contagious one. Parents may pass on this disease to their children or they may not. When both parents have the genetic trait that causes the sickle cells, then there is a 1 in 4 chance that a child will develop this disease.
5. Not a Death Sentence
In the last 20 years, a number of scientific advancements have made it medically possible to improve life with this disease. As early as 1990, the average life span of someone with sickle cell anemia was barely 18. Now people are easily living into their 40’s, living happy and productive lives that they find very meaningful.
6. It Hates Caucasians
The only race that tends to get a pass on sickle cell anemia are Caucasians of European descent. African-Americans tend to be a majority of the patients, up to 80% in some areas, but this disease affects those of Arab, Hispanic, Indian, and Mediterranean backgrounds as well. Anyone can theoretically get this disease because it is genetic, but it does seem to have racial preferences.
7. The Needs Are Comprehensive
Sickle cell anemia affects many different parts of the body at once. Daily care is often needed to manage the symptoms of the disease and a hematologist often needs to be involved. Finding a good social worker is also a great benefit because this can help families find more local resources that may be available to them.