Dr. Althea Grant: “This Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving”

A grandfather holding a turkeyHolidays are wonderful times to enjoy delicious food and talk with family members. As you all gather together, why not focus on your family’s health and collect a family health history?

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What is a family health history?

Family health history is a written record of information about your family’s medical conditions, lifestyles, behaviors, and environment.

Tracing the illnesses suffered by your relatives, such as diabetes, heart problems and cancer, can help your doctor assess your risk for certain diseases and recommend actions to keep you and your family healthy. In addition, a family history of a genetic disorder, like sickle cell disease, can mean the condition is in your genes, and can possibly be passed on to your children.

How do you collect your family health history?

Talk with your family about their medical conditions, including diagnoses and symptoms. Keep a written record, and update it as needed.

What is sickle cell trait?

Sickle cell trait is not a disease; it is inherited from a person’s parents. People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have sickle cell trait. People with sickle cell trait usually don’t have any symptoms of sickle cell disease and may not know it runs in their family.

Why should you know your sickle cell trait status?

It’s important to know your sickle cell trait status so that you can also know your chances of having a child with sickle cell disease; or be better prepared to take measures to protect your health. Sickle cell trait is identified with a simple blood test by a doctor.

Talk to your family about whether you have a family history of sickle cell trait. Learning your family’s health history can help you and your doctor make better decisions about how to manage your health and healthcare.

If you have questions about sickle cell trait, check out the following resources:

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Should You Take Hydroxyurea?

A woman holding a pill and a glass of waterAll individuals with or who have a loved one affected by sickle cell disease should be aware of a medication called hydroxyurea.

What makes this medication so special? This is the only FDA-approved medication for the treatment of sickle cell disease.

Hydroxyurea is a medication that can be taken by mouth daily to prevent and minimize a lot of the complications associated with sickle cell anemia. Research studies have shown hydroxyurea has many beneficial effects such as decrease in pain episodes, decrease the need for blood transfusions, decrease the life-threatening complication called acute chest syndrome and even show mortality benefit in those who consistently took this medication.

Hydroxyurea does require blood test monitoring and that you regularly follow with your doctor. This medication is used in children and adults. However, if you are trying to have children, you should not conceive while taking hydroxyurea.

It is worth having the discussion with your doctor to see if this medication is appropriate for you as well as to discuss any possible side effects.