INDIANAPOLIS—Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects thousands of people every day and is the most common genetic blood disorder. Wednesday, June 19, is World Sickle Cell Day. First recognized by the United Nations in 2008 as a public health concern, World Sickle Cell Day is celebrated annually to create awareness about the disease.
Sickle cell disease is a disorder in which the red blood cells in the body become hard, sticky and sickle-shaped, looking like a C-shaped farm tool called a sickle. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.
SCD is a genetic condition that is present at birth. It is inherited when a child receives two sickle cell genes—one from each parent. People with SCD start to have signs of the disease during the first year of life, usually around two months of age. Symptoms and complications of SCD are different for each person and can range from mild to severe.
In Indiana, there are approximately 1,000 individuals living with SCD and approximately 1,000 babies are born every year with sickle cell trait (SCT). People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have SCT. People with SCT can pass the trait on to their children. Symptoms from SCT are usually not as severe as symptoms of SCD.
“Every adult and child should know their sickle cell status,” said State Health Commissioner William VanNess, M.D. “In rare cases, people with sickle cell trait might experience complications, such as having severe pain, trouble with low oxygen levels in the air, high altitudes and/or dehydration. It’s important to know if you have the trait so you can be educated and aware of these possible complications.”
The Indiana State Department of Health Sickle Cell Program works with community partners around the state to bring awareness and educate the public on SCT and SCD. It also provides education, resources and support for families that are affected by SCD. Currently, the only cure for SCD is bone marrow or stem cell transplant.
The Martin Center Sickle Cell Initiative will be holding their Annual Sickle Cell 5K Walk/Run on Saturday, June 22 at 8 a.m. For event details and to register, visit www.themartincenter.org.
For more information, visit www.StateHealth.in.gov or follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1.
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