Today is World Sickle Cell Awareness Day!
Sickle-cell disease (SCD) is a group of genetically passed down blood disorders. The most common type is known as sickle-cell anaemia (SCA). It results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein hemoglobin found in red blood cells. This leads to a rigid, sickle-like shape under certain circumstances.
Problems in sickle cell disease typically begin around 5 to 6 months of age. A number of health problems may develop, such as attacks of pain ("sickle-cell crisis"), anemia, bacterial infections, and stroke. Long term pain may develop as people get older. The average life expectancy in the developed world is 40 to 60 years.
Sickle-cell disease occurs when a person inherits two abnormal copies of the hemoglobin gene, one from each parent. Several subtypes exist, depending on the exact mutation in each hemoglobin gene. An attack can be set off by temperature changes, stress, dehydration, and high altitude.
A person with a single abnormal copy does not usually have symptoms and is said to have sickle-cell trait. Such people are also referred to as carriers. Diagnosis is by a blood test and some countries test all babies for the disease at birth. Diagnosis is also possible during pregnancy.
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