Day 245 of 365: What is Sickle Cell Disease?

A genetically inherited condition that causes the change in shape of the red blood cells to sickle shape which therefore leads to diseases such as sickle cell anaemia. Under Normal circumstances the red blood cell is biconcave in structure which gives it a large surface area to volume ration. With the large surface area to volume ration there is easy exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide but this is not the case with the sickle cells. Their shape is crescent and the surface area to volume ratio is small making exchange of breathing gases difficult. Sometimes the crescent shaped blood cells get stuck in blood vessels limiting flow of blood to some parts of the body.

Day 246 of 365:How does one get sickle cell Disease?

Sickle cell Disease being a genetically acquired disorder is obtained when an Individual inherits two sickle genes from the parents.
Biologically we are defined by our genes which are normally inside the body cells, the nature of our bodies such as the colour of our hair, eyes, height and body structure are all determined by our genes which are acquired from our parents. It is also the genes that dictates the structure of our red blood cells whether they will be biconcave or sickle shaped. At conception an individual acquires a set of genes from each parent (the mother’s egg and the father’s sperm). Therefore if an individual acquires a single sickle cell gene from the parents they are will have sickle cell trait which in most cases does not cause health problems or conditions associated with sickle cell diseases.
However, if an induvial acquires two sickle cell genes from the parents, the two genes will produce a sickle cell disease. Other factors that may lead to sickle cell disease include mutation of genes and environmental conditions but in very rare cases.

Day 247 of 365: What is Sickle Cell Trait?

It’s a condition in which a child inherits the sickle-cell gene mutation from one parent.
Sickle cell disease is an inherited group of disorders in which red blood cells contort into a sickle shape. With sickle cell trait, a child receives the sickle cell gene mutation from only one parent. In this case, the child doesn’t get the disease, but can pass the defective gene on to future generations.

In most cases, there are no symptoms.
No specific treatment is required.

Day 248 of 365:How does one get the sickle cell Trait?

If both parents have SCT, there is a 50% (or 1 in 2) chance that any child of theirs also will have SCT, if the child inherits the sickle cell gene from one of the parents. Such children will not have symptoms of SCD, but they can pass SCT on to their children.
If both parents have SCT, there is a 25% (or 1 in 4) chance that any child of theirs will have SCD. There is the same 25% (or 1 in 4) chance that the child will not have SCD or SCT.

Day 249 of 365: How can one know if they have the sickle cell trait or Sickle Cell disease?

Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) and Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is diagnosed with a simple blood test called the electrophoresis test. People at risk of having SCT/SCD can talk with a doctor or health clinic about getting this test. In Kenya the test is usually not available in most hospitals hence its a challenge in getting early diagnosis.

Day 250 of 365:Sickle Cell Statistics

According to WHO (2020), about 5% which approximately 38million of the population of the world’s carry the sickle cell genes (this includes people with the sickle trait and those with the disease), making sickle cell diseases the most common blood disorder in the world. Africa is more affected by the disorder than most parts of the world with the sub-Saharan countries leading with the number of cases. The disease is responsible for 5% of infant mortality in Africa. In Nigeria for example 24% of the population have the sickle cell genes while 150, 000 of the population have the sickle cell disease. Infant Mortality due to Sickle cell disease in Nigeria is 16%.
East Arica has also been greatly affected by the sickle cell disease with Uganda recording upto 33000 babies being born with the disorder. According to Uganda ministry of health (2018), 80% of those babies die before their 5th birthday. In effort to create awareness and mitigate the inabilities and discomforts that sickle cell victims face, Ugandans have founded organisation such as Sickle Cell Association of Uganda in 2000, Uganda Sickle Cell Rescue Foundation in 2018 among others.
In Kenya the sickle cell disease is more prevalent among people in the lake regions including the Turkana and the coastal region. According to America society of Haematology (2019), 18% of children born in this region have sickle cell trait while 4.5% are born with the disease. A large percent of the children born with the disease die before their 5th birthday this is majorly attributed to lack of knowledge in sickle cell disease by the health care practitioners who are unable to detect the disease at an early age or at birth. Another reason is lack of appropriate facilities to take care of the victims.

Day 251 of 365:What are the symptoms of sickle cell disease?

Requires a medical diagnosis
Infections, pain and fatigue are symptoms of sickle cell disease.
People may experience:
Pain areas: in the joints
Pain types: can be sudden and in any part of the body; sometimes in the chest
Whole body: dizziness, fatigue, low oxygen in the body, or malaise
Urinary: inability to make concentrated or dilute urine or blood in urine
Also common: hemolytic anemia, developmental delays, jaundice, pale skin, sausage digit, or shortness of breath.

Published by Stephen Ogweno

a global health practitioner, NCD advocate and mHealth Innovator

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