Sickle Cell Awareness Month

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 5:39 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - During September, organizations around the world encourage awareness of Sickle Cell Disease, a genetically inherited blood disorder. Though many thousands of Americans carry the dangerous sickle cell trait, this does not necessarily mean they will ever experience symptoms.

According to the CDC, approximately 100,000 Americans are affected by sickle cell disease.

The National Institute of Health says that the most common type of sickle cell disease is sickle cell anemia, in which the person’s red blood cells become rigid and misshapen. This can clog smaller blood vessels and cause breathlessness and pain along with increased risk of major blood clots and strokes. The second most common variation of sickle cell disease is thalessemia, in which the body is unable to produce enough type A hemoglobin, or type B hemoglobin, or both. Because of this, the person has fewer red blood cells and lower blood oxygen levels.

The sickle cell genes are most common among people of African, Mediterranean, and Asian heritage. For all types of sickle cell disease, a person who inherits abnormal genes from both parents will have the disease. A person who inherits the genes from only one parent will likely not have symptoms, but will still be able to pass the genes on to their children.

Blood tests for abnormal hemoglobin are recommended as part of routine newborn health screenings. Older children and adults can receive testing by asking at any primary care office.