Sickle Cell: What African Americans Need To Know Now
Sickle cell disease affects millions of children every year, many of them African American. Keep yourself, family and loved ones healthy by knowing and sharing the facts.
In the United States, most people with sickle cell disease (SCD) are of African ancestry or identify themselves as black.
About 1 in 13 African American babies is born with sickle cell trait.
About 1 in every 365 black children is born with sickle cell disease.
There are also many people with this disease who come from Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern, or Asian Indian backgrounds.
Because sickle cell anemia symptoms can begin by four months of age, early diagnosis is critical. All newborns in the United States are now tested for the disease. Sickle cell anemia can be identified before birth by testing a sample of amniotic fluid or tissue from the placenta. People who carry the sickle cell gene can seek genetic counseling before pregnancy to discuss options.
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Sickle cell is a disease that affects the oxygen-carrying red blood cells. While normal red blood cells with HbA are round with a doughnut-like indentation to carry oxygen, the HbS gene causes the red blood cells to become abnormally crescent-shaped and rigid. Sickled red blood cells get caught in the body’s smaller blood vessels, blocking normal blood flow and causing severe pain and damage to the delicate tissues of the lungs, eyes, spleen, kidneys and liver. People with one copy of the HbS gene are “carriers” of the sickle cell trait and may experience some symptoms. People with two copies of the gene develop sickle cell anemia/disease, which can be deadly.
But you can fight back. Here’s how:
• Fish Oil
Reduce the frequency of severe pain episodes by taking a daily fish oil supplement providing 33 mg of EPA and 23 mg of DHA for every 2.2 pounds of body weight
• Think Zinc
Under the supervision of a doctor, take a daily supplement of 100 mg of zinc, plus 2 mg of copper, to help prevent cell damage and speed healing of leg ulcers associated with sickle cell anemia
• Fill up on fluids
Drink plenty of water and other fluids to maintain good circulation
For more on sickle cell disease cures, click here.