Sickle cell disease affects millions worldwide, yet isn’t talked about often enough. This inherited haemoglobin/red blood cell disorder can be caught early and managed better with a little more awareness of the condition.
What Is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle Cell disease affects the haemoglobin in the red blood cells of the body, causing the cells to appear C or sickle-shaped. These red blood cells are sticky and hard. They struggle to pass through narrow blood vessels causing blood flow to be affected. People with the condition also experience a constant shortfall since these cells die early (in 10 to 20 days, compared to 90 to 120 days of normal cells). As a result, there are a host of issues that you may need to learn to cope with.
Living With Sickle Cell Disease: The Challenges
Sickle cell disease if left undiagnosed or untreated could cause complications you’re best off avoiding. Thankfully, treatments exist that can reduce the risk of more severe complications and/or ease symptoms when they do occur. Bone marrow and blood transplants are the only cures for this condition. However, medicines can help manage pain and lower the risk of infections, among other things.
Sickle cell disease is more common in certain ethnicities/races – the Indian, Middle Eastern, African, Asian, Mediterranean, and Hispanic communities – so genetic testing could be employed effectively to assess risk if you are in a vulnerable group or have a history of the condition in the family. Prenatal testing can also be done by taking a sample from the placenta tissue or amniotic fluid. Young children can also be tested to catch the disease early. For adults, all it takes is a simple blood test to check if you have the trait or carry a gene for abnormal haemoglobin that could potentially be passed on to your children.
Genetic Testing for Sickle Cell
Sickle cell disease runs in families and is an inherited trait. This makes genetic testing a vital piece of the puzzle.
MedGenome offers simple hassle-free testing for sickle cell disease. The Sickle cell anemia (HBB) gene analysis (exon 1) – and the HPLC- Sickle Cell Anemia test(to check the type of haemoglobin present in your blood) can tell you whether you are at risk of passing on the condition to your future children and if you have sickle cell disease yourself. Optional genetic counselling can be invaluable in charting those next steps before you work out the best way forward in consultation with your doctor.
As with many such conditions, the earlier you know, the better. So whether it is testing yourself before you have a child or whether it is your little ones that you’d like to test, this virtually painless test is your best bet.