According to the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association, sickle cell anemia is common among blacks.
In this country, one in every 500 black babies is born with the disease and one in 12 carry the sickle cell trait.
“African Americans should particularly be cautious of this disease because it is basically isolated to that group,” said Tim Broeseker, a doctor at Hemotology-Oncology Associates of Northwest Florida in Tallahassee.
Sickle cell anemia is a disease that affects the red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body tissues.
Instead of red blood cells having a round shape, they form a sickle shape.
This causes blood to thicken, and it affects how well the cells carry oxygen to the tissues of the body.
This disease is inherited from parents with the sickle cell anemia trait. There are three common types of sickle cell in the United States: Hemoglobin SS, Hemoglobin SC, and Hemoglobin sickle beta-thalassemia.
“No one ever really talks about sickle cell, so its not something that I think about on a regular basis,” said Trellis Ramsey, 21, an accounting student from Gainesville.
There are no medicines that treat sickle cell anemia.
Early detection of the trait will help to stop the disease from spreading.
The Sickle Cell Disease Association recommends that African Americans get genetic screening for the sickle cell anemia trait before having children.
“I’ve never considered sickle cell anemia as being an issue when I think about the possibility of having children,” said Deidre Harris, 21, an elementary education student from Orlando.
A blood test called hemoglobin electrophoresis can be done by a doctor to find out if someone is a carrier.
Patients with this disease often suffer from periods of pain called crises.
A crisis may be brief or it can last for hours or weeks.
Crises are treated with fluids, pain killers and oxygen, but if the crises are intense, the patient may need to be admitted to the hospital to get stronger drugs or treatment.
More information on sickle cell anemia can obtained by calling the Sickle Cell Disease Association at 1-800-421-8453 or by visiting the American Sickle Cell Anemia Association Web site at www.ascaa.org.