Sickle cell anemia (SCA) is a severe and lifelong disease. However, healthcare professionals can manage several symptoms associated with this disease.
The good news about the sickle cell is that the disease is curable. Patients would need bone marrow transport, a risky and expensive surgical procedure.
Studies indicate 1 in 500 African Americans has sickle cell disease. 1 in 12 African Americans also carries the mutation. The number of people of color diagnosed with SCA yearly is massive. And this has forced many to wonder if white people have similar cases.
Do White People Get Sickle Cell?
Yes, white people can have sickle cell. Anybody can have the disease, but it is more predominant in African-Americans than other races.
However, sickle cell disease is not only popular among Africans. It’s also common among Indians, Spanish-speaking countries in South and Central America, Arabian Peninsula, and Mediterranean countries such as Turkey, Italy, and Greece.
What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia (SCA) is a type of sickle cell disease. This disease specifically affects one’s red blood cells.
The normal red blood cells’ shape differs from someone with sickle cell anemia. The normal red blood cell boasts a disc-like shape, allowing it to fit into the small blood vessels.
However, in people with sickle cell disease, you’ll discover that some red blood cells are shaped like a sickle, a farming tool.
The abnormal crescent shape formed by these red blood cells makes it impossible for them to fit into the small blood vessels. So, they stick to the blood vessel walls or catch on to one another.
The danger is that the sickle cell will accumulate, blocking the blood vessels.
Blood vessel blockage is a serious issue. It will prevent oxygen from getting to vital organs, resulting in extreme pain or organ damage.
Factors That Cause Sickle Cell Anemia
The main cause of sickle cell anemia is genetic. In other words, a sickle cell patient inherits sickle cell genes from both parents (father and mother). So, this genetic condition could be present at birth if both parents are carriers of the sickle cell.
Now, this is how it works. When someone inherits the sickle cell gene from one parent, they won’t have sickle cell anemia. Instead, they’ll have other forms of sickle cell disease or boast a sickle cell trait.
An individual that inherits a sickle cell gene from one parent won’t have any of the severe symptoms. They’ll only have the sickle cell gene, which they can pass on to their children.
Sickle Cell Anemia Symptoms
Parents can spot symptoms of sickle cell disease in a baby when they are just a month old.
Now, what are those symptoms or signs that indicate that a person has sickle cell?
- Sickle or pain crisis: This crisis or pain can last for hours or even a whole day.
- Babies experience pain in their feet or hands, accompanied by redness or swelling.
Symptoms of sickle cell anemia in adults or older children are difficult. They’ll experience the following.
- Trouble breathing
- Pain in the bones or chest. The pain could be around your hip or shoulder joints.
- When one has severe anemia, the disease symptoms include tiredness, fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, and weakness.
- Lung problems can also develop as a symptom of sickle cell anemia. The problems include asthma, chest pain, sleep apnea, and difficulty breathing.
- Violent cough
- Pain ranges from mild to severe.
- Yellow skin and eyes
- Men with sickle cell disease might suffer erections that may last longer but are too painful to let them enjoy intimate time with their better half.
How To Avoid Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell is not a disease insects can transmit. The disease is not contagious. Instead, it’s a blood disorder inherited from both parents.
In other words, if two couples are carriers of sickle cell, the possibility of them passing it to their child is high.
So, the only possible way to avoid sickle cell disease is for both parents to ditch the idea of having kids. If they go ahead, they might give birth to a child with the disease.
Sickle cell anemia lowers one’s quality of life. And it’s a life-threatening disease. People with SCA have shorter life expectancies than people without the disease.
A recent study estimated that SCA patients have a life expectancy of 54 years, which is 20 years short of the life expectancy of people without the disease.
A Handy Tip: A recent study published in the American Society of Hematology’s online platform, Blood Journal indicates that individuals with mildly symptomatic sickle cell disease can live longer lives.
However, according to the study, this can only occur via proper disease management, family support, and strict adherence to doctor’s appointments and medication.
What Do Sickle Cell Disease Patients Go Through?
The first thing you need to understand about the sickle cell is that it’s a life-long disease. It also reduces one’s quality of life.
Sickle cell disease is a red blood cell disorder. It affects hemoglobin, the protein responsible for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.
The red blood cells of people with sickle cells are shaped differently from those with normal red blood cells.
The disease makes the red blood cells sickle-shaped, making them impossible to bend or move easily. The sickle-shaped blood cells then stick to the wall of the blood vessels, accumulate, and prevent blood flow to other body parts.
Imagine not having enough blood supply in certain parts of the body. The organs deprived of blood will shut down in no time.
So, sickle cell patients experience a lot of challenges. They face the risk of damaged organs, eye problems, stroke, and pain episodes, also known as pain crises.
Managing SCD is another challenge on its own. Most families struggle to meet up with the costs of treating the disease.
Americans with SCD age 64 and younger with commercial health insurance pay four times higher in out-of-pocket medical costs throughout their lifetime than those without the disease.
Research supported by the National Institute of Health indicates that insurance companies incur hefty costs for SCD patients. These companies pay an average of $1.7 per individual living with the disease.
So, the sickle cell takes a massive financial toll on families, patients, and even the healthcare system.
Living Your Best Life With Sickle Cell
Sickle cell disease can make one’s life miserable, but you don’t need to be that person. You can live your life to the fullest as a sickle cell patient and make things easier for your family taking care of you.
Below are things you can do to live your best life if you’re someone with sickle cell disease. Have this at the back of your mind: SCD isn’t the end of the world
1: Understand you need the right medical personnel around you:
Sickle cell isn’t the worst disease in the world. You can lead a great life even as an SCD patient.
However, for that to happen, you have to make the right choice when choosing your healthcare professional.
Choose a doctor or nurse that has experience with the disease. They should be professionals who have successfully cared for other patients like you.
A hematologist is a specialist in blood disease, and it’s what you need. You can also check for a hematologist that works with a team comprising other professionals.
2: Promote a healthy lifestyle:
Having sickle cell disease makes you special. Thus, you must ensure you live a healthy life.
What’s a healthy lifestyle for an SCD patient? Firstly, drink enough water daily.
Consuming 8 to 10 glasses of water daily can help to reduce some of the pains associated with the disease. So, make an effort to stay hydrated every day.
When you do, you can prevent vaso-occlusive crises, stroke, pain crises, and infections associated with the disease.
Avoid alcohol and smoking. Note that alcohol can make you dehydrated, while smoking can trigger severe lung conditions.
Make exercise a normal routine. But don’t overdo it. Rest when you feel tired. Avoid overstressing yourself.
Children with SCD should also exercise as often as possible. However, ensure they don’t overdo it, or get stressed.
3: Stay updated with the latest news about the disease:
Did you know that clinical studies and research on sickle cell are being organized now and then? Several programs are already running.
So, get yourself informed about the latest news on the studies on the disease. You never know what news might come out soon. Researchers could find a cure or a better way to manage the disease.
These clinical studies involve participants who have the disease. So keep your mind open. You can sign up and become a participant. Help the researchers to make progress in their studies.
4: Start looking for support:
Numerous community-based organizations and patient support groups exist. They help SCD patients by providing support, assistance, and information.
So, do white people get sickle cell? Our explanation and statistics from concluded studies show that no race or tribe is immune to sickle cell.
Skin color doesn’t determine who gets SCD and who doesn’t. The disease is genetic, and patients inherit it from both parents.
So, yes, white people can have sickle cell anemia. However, the percentage of African-Americans with the disease is more.