What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is a serious medical condition that can affect people of all ages. In addition, this disorder is an inherited blood disorder, meaning that people that carry the trait often pass the trait or the disease over to their children.

While sickle cell cannot be cured, there are treatment options and the symptoms of sickle cell can be treated. This is often a scary diagnosis and if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with this problem, you may have many questions. The following are all frequently asked questions when it comes to sickle cell.

This blood disorder is hereditary disease that affects the red blood cells. When people have this disorder, the red blood cells do not function as they should. With sickle cell disease, the red blood cells are not smooth and soft, instead, the cells are hard. This problem causes not only pain, but it can also cause severe anemia, which must be treated.

Sickle Cell Trait

When you hear the term “sickle cell trait” it refers to the fact that you have the gene for the disease. Since this is an inherited disease, then you have gotten passed down from your parent or grandparent.

Just because you have the trait, it does not necessarily mean that you will get the sickle cell disease. However, if you do carry the trait, you can have a child with the disease. It is estimated that there are over two million people in the United States with this trait.

Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease

Mainly, people with sickle cell disease suffer from severe forms of anemia. In addition, there can also be pain and patients with this disease may have problems with strokes.

Many sickle cell patients also suffer from damage to the lung tissue. When the blood flow is blocked by irregular red blood cells, there are also problems with eyesight and other organs in the body. This disease does attack the lungs, liver and the spleen.

Currently, there is no cure for this disease. There is a lot of research having to do with gene therapy on the horizon. Researchers are working on finding a cure.

Lifespan Prognosis

About 1000 infants are born with this disease each year and they now have a better outlook for a longer life than in the past. It used to be that people with sickle cell disease died at an early age. However, the advances in medical technology, that has changed. With regular medical care, the average person suffering from sickle cell can live to about 40 years of age.

People with this disease can live a pretty normal life, but they must have regular medical treatment. When there is damage to major organs, then the symptoms must be treated. If left untreated, then the outlook is bleak.

It is true that African Americans are more likely to suffer from this disease. People with an African background are more at risk, but so are those of Spanish, French, Greek and Portuguese descent.

Image: T.Blundell & N Campillo, Wellcome Images

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