Sickle Cell Anemia is a serious disease that affects African-Americans mainly. The disease is most common in families that hail from Africa, South or Central America, Caribbean Islands, Mediterranean countries, India and South Arabia.
In the United States, 1 out of every 500 African-American births are diagnosed. It is reported that over 2 million Americans have the sickle cell trait. The condition occurs in about 1 out of 12 African-Americans. Hispanic-Americans are also affected with sickle cell anemia. The disease is detected in 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births. When someone is diagnosed with sickle cell anemia that is not African-American it is somewhat of a surprise.
Individuals with sickle cell have red blood cells that are shaped in a “C” form that look like a sickle( see above diagram). Normal blood cells are shaped like a disc and look like doughnuts without holes in the center. Sickle cells become hard and pointed instead of soft and round.
Because of the shape, the sickle cell cause anemia, pain and other problems. Although there hasn’t been a cure found, research in gene therapy is underway. Positive new treatment developments using hydroxyurea have shown promising results on adult sickle cell patients. It has helped with the reducing of pain, acute chest syndrome and the need for blood transfusions. The life expectancy has also improved to the mid 40’s range but many individuals has lived past that age. Sickle cell patients are able to live productive lives with a managed care program and support system.