(BLACK PR WIRE) -- We all are well aware of diseases such as cancer, Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other prevalent illnesses. However, there are other serious conditions that are not as well publicized. Myasthenia Gravis, an incurable autoimmune disorder that attacks the muscles is rarely discussed. Another fatal condition, known as sickle cell disease, is almost forgotten. Many people are unaware of the damage the disease can do or is already doing to thousands of African Americans. The acute disease attacks mainly people from African descent, Mediterranean, Indian, and Middle Eastern heritage. In America, these disorders are most commonly observed in African Americans and Hispanics from the Caribbean, Central America, and parts of South America. However, unlike several other diseases, sickle cell disease is not contagious, but hereditary.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. It occurs when two abnormal genes are inherited from each parent. Normal red blood cells are soft and have a round shaped-form that allows fluid movement throughout the blood vessels, releasing oxygen to other cells in the body. In the presence of the disorder, these cells change shape and become thick. They curve into a crescent shape, making it difficult to pass through their intended path and as a result, clog the blood vessels. Once the blood vessels are blocked, the body tissues receive less oxygen which eventually results in damage.
Normal cells live up to 120 days until they are renewed with brand new cells. However, sickle cells only live for about 10 to 20 days resulting in a short supply of red blood cells which causes anemia.
There are about 70,000 people living with sickle cell disease in America and two million people carry the trait. One in twelve African Americans is a sickle cell carrier. The carriers do not have the disease or experience symptoms of the disease; they simply have the trait that can be passed on to their children. They may never realize that they are carrying the gene unless tested.
Sickle cell patients seldom live normal lives due to the excruciating pain they often have all over their body. Their pain may last from two hours to two weeks. One celebrity battling the disease is former TLC member, Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins. She is the celebrity spokesperson for the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America.
As this debilitating disease is inherited from both parents carrying the trait, African American couples should get tested for the sickle cell trait to avoid having children with the disease. Although having a baby is a beautiful experience, couples aware of carrying the trait should consider adopting to avoid having a child faced with suffering through a lifetime of the disease.
Symptoms and complications associated with sickle cell anemia are:
• Pain throughout the body, mainly in the chest, arms and legs
• Eye problems
• Swelling of the hands and feet
• Shortness of breath
Although there are ways to improve the victims’ pain, sickle cell anemia is incurable. Forms of treatments include: Hydration (drink eight to ten glasses of water daily), penicillin, folic acid, blood transfusions and bone marrow transplant.
For detailed information on sickle disease, its diagnosis, symptoms and treatments, visit www.sicklecelldisease.org.