Thursday, September 23, 2010

What you don't know about sickle cell disease

By Sharon Watkins-Jones

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. How much do you know about the disease? Do you know what you don’t know about sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that contain an abnormal type of hemoglobin. Their red blood cells often become stiff and sickle-shaped (like crescent moons), clogging up the normal flow of blood through the body, causing tissue damage and severe pain.   Commonly, sickle cell disease damages a person’s kidney, liver, and lungs. In addition, young sickle cell patients are more susceptible to bacterial infection, due to spleen damage.

There is no universally accepted cure for sickle cell disease at this time.

As a young adult, I thought I was reasonably well-informed about sickle cell disease. I knew it was inherited, and although there was no history of the trait or the disease in my family, I participated in a sickle cell testing drive in college. 

Sharon is a community college administrator, former special education teacher, wife of 17 years and mother of two school-age children in northwest Houston. Her primary interests are family-inclusive culture and arts, travel, politics, historical literature, Texas Longhorns and all things Disney.

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