What Is Sickle Cell Disease?

Tola Ajayi was almost rounding up with her NYSC when her Fiancé, Jude, proposed. They began making plans to get married, but there was an unexpected Event. The pastor of their church asked them if they were aware of each other’s genotypes. That was a prerequisite for their wedding. Tola and Jude, who had already been dating for over 3 years, then went to get tested.

Laboratory results showed that they were both carriers of the sickle cell gene. They called off the wedding and broke up. “At first, I wanted to go ahead,” Tola said, “but Jude told me to imagine how much more painful it would be if we lost a child to sickle cell disease in future.”

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited form of anemia — a condition in which there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen throughout your body.

Normally, your red blood cells are flexible and round, moving easily through your blood vessels. In sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body.

 

What Causes Sickle Cell Disease?

SCD is inherited in the same way that people get the color of their eyes, skin, and hair.

A person with SCD is born with it. People cannot “catch” SCD from being around a person who has it.

A recent WHO report estimates that around 150,000 of the children born in Nigeria every year are affected by sickle cell anaemia. For this disease to occur, an abnormal type of haemoglobin known as sickle haemoglobin, or S, has to be inherited from both the mother and the father, leaving a child with two sickle cell genes. Children like this are more prone to infection.

Their red blood cells are fragile and rupture easily, leading to anaemia. Their irregular, sickle-shaped cells can also block blood vessels, causing tissue and organ damage and severe pain. The majority of people with sickle cell disease are of African or Caribbean descent, and one out of every four Nigerians is either a sufferer or a carrier of the S gene.

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