June 19, 2021, is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day. The purpose of this day is to raise awareness about sickle cell disease (SCD). This disorder is an inherited blood disease that causes the red blood cells to form in a “sickle” shape and stick together.
SCD can cause the following health problems:
- Severe pain or pain crises (the most common symptom of SCD)
- Hand-Foot Syndrome (usually the first symptom of SCD)
- Vision loss
Diagnosing and Treating SCD
Diagnosing SCD usually happens during a routine blood test at birth. Symptoms of SCD usually begin to appear around four to five months of age when sickle hemoglobin replaces fetal hemoglobin. Most treatments for SCD treat the symptoms. However, one treatment that has been increasingly more successful at curing SCD is a bone marrow transplant. Other treatments target symptoms of SCD and include:
- Hydroxyurea: reduces the number of pain crises.
- Blood transfusions: treats anemia and low iron levels.
- Penicillin (antibiotic): treats infection and usually recommended children with SCD take a daily antibiotic until the age of 5.
- Vaccines: prevents infections. Infections are the leading cause of death in children with SCD.
Living With SCD
There are a few preventative things people living with SCD can do to relieve SCD symptoms. Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated will help prevent the cells from sticking which will help prevent hand-foot syndrome and pain crises. Good hygiene practices such as washing your hands frequently will prevent infection. Finally, eating foods high in iron, such as lentils, will help maintain iron levels.
How You Can Help
The red ribbon is the official symbol for SCD awareness, pin a red ribbon to your shirt to help bring attention to SCD day. For more information about how you can help raise awareness for Sickle Cell Disease, contact your local SCDAA chapter and ask about upcoming events. Due to Covid-19, many events for Sickle Cell Awareness Day will be hosted virtually.