The Urban League of Greater Southwestern Ohio’s Health Initiative works in partnership with community stakeholders to increase awareness of health issues that impact an individual’s ability to be self-sufficient. The Sickle Cell Awareness Group (SCAG) works in conjunction with community partners to provide education, screening and other services to those Greater Cincinnati residents and families affected by the sickle cell disease and trait. Additionally, the SCAG works to increase public awareness of the sickle cell disorder within the Greater Cincinnati community.
What is Sickle Cell Anemia? Sickle cell anemia is a genetic blood disorder caused by a defect in the gene that carries hemoglobin. The defective gene changes the shape of the red blood cells from circular to crescent or sickle shaped. With this change in shape, the red blood cells deliver less oxygen to the body’s tissues and there is an increased chance of the cell getting caught in the small blood vessels and breaking apart; both of which can interrupt blood flow. This decreases the amount of oxygen flowing to the tissues.
Sickle cell anemia is most common among people of African and Mediterranean descent.
It is also common in people from South American or Central American countries, the Caribbean and the Middle East. In the United States, sickle cell disease affects around 90,000 people, most of whom have ancestors from Africa. About 1 in 12 African Americans, carry the sickle cell trait.
Sickle cell anemia is identified through a blood test that measures the different types of the oxygen-carrying protein (hemoglobin) in the blood. Every state began screening at different times but, as of 2012, all states test newborn infants for sickle cell anemia.
The disorder’s course does not follow a single pattern; some patients may have mild symptoms, while others have severe symptoms which can require hospitalization. The symptoms occur in painful episodes, called crises, which can last from hours to days. Crises can cause pain the bones of the back, long bones, and the chest.
Due to a better understanding and management of the disease, the prognosis for sickle cell anemia is better today than it was in the past. The most common causes for death due to sickle cell anemia include organ failure and infection.