Since 2008, World Sickle Cell Awareness Day has been held annually, in order to help increase public knowledge and raise awareness of Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and the struggles sufferers and their families go through.
SCD affects millions of people around the world, including both adults and children. It is a potentially fatal disease and, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of the main causes of premature death amongst children under the age of five in various African countries.
Here is an insight into the disease:
Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder that causes the red blood cells to be abnormally shaped and get stuck inside the blood vessels, making it hard to deliver oxygen throughout the body. This causes intense pain and can lead to infection and severe complications like organ damage and stroke.
Five things to know about the disease.
- Sickle cell disease (SCD) is common throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, affecting up to 3% of births in some parts of the continent. Nigeria has one of the largest population of people with sickle cell disorder, with about 150,000 births annually
- People are born with sickle cell disease; it does not develop in adulthood, and it is not contagious. Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that is passed down from parent to child. To have the disease, both sets of parents must carry what is known as the sickle cell trait. If both parents have this trait, there is a 25 percent chance that their child will have sickle cell disease
- Sickle cell disease is chronic but treatable and is not a death sentence. Twenty years ago, children with sickle cell disease rarely lived to become adults. Today, the outlook for patients with the disease has improved significantly. Thanks to new treatments and therapies, many people with the disease are now living into their 40s and 50s
- Sickle cell disease affects people of many different races. Sickle cell disease is often thought of as a disease affecting blacks, and a majority of patients (researchers estimate 60 to 80%) are of African origins, but other races are affected. People of Indian, Middle Eastern, Hispanic and Mediterranean heritage are also commonly affected
- Patients with sickle cell disease require comprehensive care. Since sickle cell disease is a chronic illness that affects many systems in the body, it is essential that children and adults have a system of care that includes primary care physicians, haematologists, paediatricians and social workers
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