Sickle Cell Awareness Month

Over 100,000 Americans suffer from sickle cell disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Black and Hispanic-American babies are most often born with the disease. Additionally, one in every 13 Black babies is born with sickle cell trait (HbAS), which generally doesn’t cause symptoms of sickle cell disease, but may lead to health issues in response to physical stresses such as dehydration or strenuous physical exercise.

A person with sickle cell disease has abnormal hemoglobin, causing their red blood cells to become hard and sticky. These cells form into a shape resembling a sickle and have a short life cycle, leading to a constant shortage of red blood cells and symptoms that include pain, infections, strokes, and acute chest syndrome.

There are also several different forms of sickle cell disease. Common types include:

  • Sickle cell anemia (HbSS), which causes standard sickle cell disease symptoms as well as potential issues such as delayed puberty and vision problems
  • HbSC, a typically mild form of sickle cell disease
  • HbS beta thalassemia, in which a child inherits the genes for both sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia, another cause of abnormal hemoglobin

Rare forms of sickle cell disease include:

  • HbSD, in which a child inherits the sickle cell “S” gene and a “D” gene
  • HbSE, in which a child inherits the “S” and “E” genes
  • HbSO, in which a child inherits the “S” and “O” genes

Sickle cell disease can be diagnosed through a blood test shortly after a baby’s birth or through a sample of the amniotic fluid surrounding a baby in the womb. A blood test can also be used to diagnose an adult with sickle cell disease.

People with sickle cell disease can manage their symptoms by staying hydrated, regulating their body temperature, and avoiding spaces with low oxygen levels. Practicing good hand hygiene can also help.

If you need help managing symptoms of sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait, schedule an appointment with a hematologist at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Department of Internal Medicine at (718) 206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.