4 Important Things To Know About Sickle Cell Disease

African American father holding newborn babySeptember is Sickle Cell Awareness Month and is a very special month to me due to my own personal journey with sickle cell disease. My daughter was diagnosed with sickle cell disease so I am not only a physician, but a mother and also an advocate to help make everyone aware of this common chronic medical condition.

However, my goal was to not only be an advocate for my daughter, but to also help prevent her from having repeated hospitalizations due to pain crisis, improve her health while keeping her healthy in the process so that she can grow and thrive the best way she can. I began to search natural and holistic therapies to keep her healthy. Being trained as an osteopathic physician allowed me to look at the whole-body approach to healing when treating patients.

However, after my daughter’s diagnosis I wanted to further educate myself to become the Holistic Integrative Pediatrician I am today. It is with these skills I not only help my daughter, but also help to empower and give knowledge to other moms of children with chronic diseases so that their children can live their best lives yet.

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder which causes the red blood cells to become abnormally shaped in appearance and get stuck inside of blood vessels, which makes it hard to deliver oxygen to tissues within the body. This lack of oxygen then causes congestion known as “sludging” in the blood vessels, leading to severe pain to individuals affected by this chronic condition.

Complications from the lack of oxygen and congestion of red blood cells in the body then leads to increased breakdown of the red blood cells leading to a chronic anemia. Many of these patients are then left with endless blood transfusions to prevent organ damage and stroke. Because of the abnormal red blood cells and anemia many of these patients have what we call “functional asplenia.” This means that their spleen does not function normally like individuals without the disease.

The spleen is important for immune system support because it helps to filter blood. Unfortunately, this makes many individuals with sickle cell disease susceptible to infections that individuals with healthy immune systems can fight off. These infections can become serious to an individual with sickle cell disease and can often lead to severe infection in the blood stream and at times death.

Here are four important things to know about sickle cell disease:

1. Sickle cell disease is the most common genetic disorder in the United States. Per the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) sickle cell disease affects about 100,000 Americans. About 1 in 13 Black babies are born with the sickle cell trait. One in 365 Black babies have the disease and 1 in 1600 hispanic babies carry the disease. Sickle cell disease is also more common across parts of Africa, yet due to lack of medical care many individuals are unaware and not able to get the necessary treatment.