As recently as 1970, the average patient with sickle cell disease died in childhood, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Today, patients with sickle cell anemia live into their mid-50s. That’s a pretty amazing improvement, but we still have a long way to go when it comes to treating sickle cell anemia and other related conditions.
September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, which is good news for the 70,000 — 100,000 Americans who are affected by the condition. Any Lab Test Now stands with those affected, to help focus attention on the need for research and treatment of this painful inherited condition
What is Sickle Cell?
Normal red blood cells are round and carry oxygen to all parts of your body. Sickle cell disease occurs when the hemoglobin in the red blood cells is abnormal. They become rigid and take on a “C” or sickle shape — the defining characteristic of the disease. That shape becomes a problem because round blood cells can pass through your body easily, while sickle-shaped blood cells can get stuck, blocking blood vessels. That means oxygen isn’t getting to parts of your body. Not only is it painful — it’s also dangerous. Some common symptoms include:
- Long-term damage to organs, muscles and bones due to oxygen deprivation
- Painful swelling of hands and feet, especially after exertion or getting too hot or too cold
- Deep pain in the bones and the abdomen, which can last for days or even continue long-term
- Jaundice and weakness and fatigue (anemia)
Sickle cell disease is inherited. People with ancestry from Africa, India, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and some Latin American countries are more likely to inherit the disease. Here at home, it is estimated that 1 in every 500 African-Americans has sickle cell disease.
Testing is Key.
Since sickle cell disease is an inherited disease, testing is important. Those who carry only one sickle cell gene (known as sickle cell trait) have a 50 percent chance of passing the trait on to a baby. If both parents have the sickle cell, then each child they have has a 1 in 4 chance of being born with sickle cell disease. Some good news is that newborns are required to undergo testing in the hospital for sickle cell disease in all 50 states. This allows doctors to treat babies and children that test positive for the disease with life-saving daily antibiotics.
But, if you want to take your search for answers a step further, Any Lab Test Now can help. If you’re not sure you were tested or if you don’t know your results, we can help. Screening can be helpful for a variety of people, including:
- Adults considering having children who want to determine the risk of passing the disease along to their newborn.
- People who know that other family members have sickle cell trait or sickle cell disease and want to assess their own risk.
- Competitive athletes are especially at risk. Even having just one gene (sickle cell trait) can sometimes be concerning and cause symptoms such as muscle pain. Things become even more dangerous if athletes exercise too strenuously or become overheated. Knowing where you stand can prevent complications.
Your Next Step
If you’re looking for answers, your local Any Lab Test Now can help. We offer the Sickle Cell Anemia Screen. It’s basically two tests with the same directive: to identify the presence of Hemoglobin S. You aren’t required to fast and the screening is safe and discreet. A negative result can give you the peace of mind to move forward. On the flip side, a positive result can help you and your doctor develop a definitive diagnosis.