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  The Minority/ Black Health Blog  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Sickle Cell Anemia and African Americans: The Threat Is Real!!

Sickle Cell Stamps
Sickle cell anemia is a blood disease affecting mostly African Americans. The disease is characterized by defective hemoglobin, part of the red blood cells. The term "sickle" comes from the shape they take, a sickle shape, when they cluster together. Their shape prevents them from carrying oxygen to cells and tissues. When this happens, the patient experiences anemia and pain.

One in 500 African Americans are born with sickle cell disease, and it is hereditary, passing from one generation to the next. Children must receive the sickle cell gene from both parents in order to actually have the disease; however, children receiving the gene from just one parent still have the sickle cell trait. One in 12 African Americans have the sickle cell trait. Although patients with sickle cell trait do not get the disease, they can pass it on to their children.

Sickle cell anemia can damage the spleen and other organs and cause the patient to become more susceptible to diseases. Symptoms include pain in the hands, feet and abdomen, fatigue, shortness of breath, yellowing of skin and eyes, and delayed growth in children. Sickle cell anemia can be detected through a blood test. Babies can be tested at birth and can determine whether the child not only has the disease but whether or not the child carries the sickle cell trait.

There is no cure for sickle cell anemia but there is treatment. It includes antibiotics, healthy eating, good hygiene, plenty of rest, protection against infections, and avoiding stress. Exercise is also good to help maintain strength. Nutrition should include plenty of fluids and water daily, folic acid, and vitamins B12 and B6. Good foods to eat which also contain these vitamins include meats, oily fish, poultry, whole grains, dried fortified cereals, soybeans, avocados, baked potatoes with skins, watermelon, bananas, peanuts, and brewer's yeast. It is particularly important for sickle cell anemia patients to take care of their health.

People who have sickle cell anemia must maintain regular visits with a primary physician or clinic. They will need to protect themselves with vaccinations against all common infections such as influenza and Hepatitis B and be tested regularly for tuberculosis. Early detection and ongoing care will help patients live a normal life and prevent serious complications from the disease.
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