Sickle Cell Disease: Separating The Myths From The Facts

Sickle cell disease has been around for a long time and it was once considered a death sentence until recent medical advancements.

For a disease that has severely ravaged human population, there are some facts and lots of myths out there that people find difficult to differentiate.

Sickle-cell disease (SCD) is a group of blood disorders typically inherited from a person’s parents.

The most common type of this disorder is known as sickle-cell anaemia (SCA) and it results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin (hemoglobin S) found in red blood cells.

This abnormality results in a rigid, sickle-like shape under certain circumstances.

The Problems of SCD begins to show from around 5 to 6 months of age.

This may result in a number of health problems in sufferers, which includes attacks of pain (otherwise known as “sickle-cell crisis”), anaemia, swelling in the hands and feet, bacterial infections, and stroke.

Furthermore, as sufferers grow older, there’s a likelihood of them developing long term pain, even as the average life expectancy of SCD in the developed world is 40 to 60 years.

Here are a number of things about sickle cell disease that people find difficult to determine either as myths or as facts.

MYTH: Only Black people get sickle cell disease

It is estimated that as much as 80% of people with sickle cell disease and resulting cases occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

This myth has held true for so long that a lot of people believe SCD is an endemic disease among people of the black race.

FACT: It Occurs Among Some Other Races Too
Despite the fact that SCD is most prevalent among people of African descent, It also affects people from India, the Middle East, Greece and southern Italy.

It has also been known to occur relatively frequently in parts of India, the Arabian peninsula, and among people of African origin living in other parts of the world.

MYTH: It’s A Blood Disease, That Is Transmissible

This is another unbelievable myth that appears to have been around for quite some time.

Some people believe that the sickle cell disease is one that they can get when they come in contact with people that have the disease.

FACT: It Isn’t Contagious

Sickle cell disease is not a contagious disease as it cannot be transmitted through blood.

Rather, it is an inherited disease that a person gets by inheriting particular genes that carries the sickle-cell trait from each parent.

MYTH: Sufferers Usually Die In Childhood

While there appears to be some level of truth in this in the past, this myth no longer holds true.

FACT: Sufferers Can Live Long

In times past, babies that were born with SCD had very little chances of making it to their teenage years, talk more of adulthood.

This is not the case anymore however as medical advancements has brought blood therapies to the fore, which has helped to increase life expectancy of sufferers by decades.

MYTH: No Cure Exists For The Disease

No cure was available for the disease for a long time and this has helped the myth attain the status of fact for a long time.

FACT: Transplant Surgery Is Possible

A cure that has been around for about a decade is transplant surgery but it has been found to be less successful in adults. The reason for this is that some adults are more likely to reject the donor bone marrow that ought to aid their cure.
However, new research from the National Institutes of Health shows promise, and points to the fact that there is a significant increase in the numbers of people who can successfully cure their SCD through transplant surgery.

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