Raising awareness on sickle cell in the Black community

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KBSI) – Sickle cell disease affects about 100,000 Americans a year. It affects all groups of people but it’s more dominant in one particular community. And the lack of volunteers donating to the current blood shortage is contributing to the problem. 

Sickle Cell Disease, also known as sickle cell anemia, is an inherent disorder that affects red blood cells.  

According to John Hopkins medicine, it inhibits the ability of hemoglobin in red blood cells to carry oxygen.  

Sickle cells tend to stick together, blocking small blood vessels and causing painful and damaging complications. 

Medical oncologist and hematologist at Cape Medical Oncology, a Saint Francis Healthcare System Medical Partner, Michael J. Naughton, MD, says the disease can affect any part of a person’s body. 

“The problems develop because the sickle cells are called sickle cells because they lose their normal flexible shape when under stress and that can include blood flow,” said Naughton. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sickle cell disease occurs in about 1 out of every 365 Black or African-American births. 

Symptoms include anemia, pain, swelling of the hands and feet, infections, stroke and vision problems. 

Dr. Naughton says that treatments for sickle cells right now are only supportive treatments.  

“So, the treatment for sickle cell anemia is currently mostly supportive meaning we have treatments that can address pain,” said Naughton. 

One of the treatments to help sickle cells disease is a blood transfusion. 

Account manager of the American Red Cross Michelle Johnson says the number of African Americans donating blood is low. 

“The population in the United States is 13% African American and yet 3% of the population that are African American donate blood,” said Johnson. 

People with sickle cell disease do best with blood that is a genetic match. But right now, Johnson says it’s hard to find matches because of the blood shortage and lack of black donors. 

Only about 40-percent of people are getting blood transfusions with an exact match. She hopes more people will put their fears aside and donate blood. 

Categories: News