June 19 is World Sickle Cell Day

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is the most frequent genetic disease worldwide. SCD affects millions of people throughout the world.

SCD belongs to a group of inherited red blood cell disorders, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “It happens when a child receives two sickle cell genes—one from each parent. The red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle”.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is an inherited disorder in which the shape of red blood cells are C-shaped sickles that can get stuck in blood vessels and block them. This blockage is called a pain crisis or sickle crisis. Tissue does not receive a normal blood flow eventually becomes damaged, and this is what causes the complications of sickle cell disease

You won’t have total control over how SCD affects your body. But you can take steps to manage pain and to reduce your chances of problems. Currently there is no universal cure for sickle cell disease. Today persons diagnosed with sickle cell disease can live a full, active life, making smart choices is important in keeping the condition from flaring into a crisis. Currently there is no universal cure for sickle cell disease.

The Collective Prevention Services (CPS), a department of the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labour, would like to make use of this opportunity: World Sickle Cell Day to share some information with the general population, friends and family and the person(s) living with SCD and create awareness about SCD in connection with the global observance of SCD.

Dealing with pain SCD varies widely person to person. The severity of pain can range from mild to severe. Likewise, the methods to relieve it also can differ. Here are some good guidelines to follow according to WebMD Medical Reference:

Talk with your doctor. Discuss your symptoms and find ways to relieve your pain. This may include medicine and other relief methods, including heating pads or physical therapy.

Use pain medicines with caution. Talk with your doctor about what over-the-counter drugs are best for you. Look for pain triggers. Every time you’re in sudden pain, try to figure out what may have caused it. Although it’s not obvious at first, having a long-running list over time could help you find a link. Find what works for you. There isn’t one pain relief that works for everybody.

WebMD says SCD is a complex disease, so it’s important to see your doctor for regular health checkups. Some tips to take care of yourself in partnership with your family physicians and family:

Drink plenty of fluids. Being dehydrated can increase your risk of a sickle crisis, so get plenty of water — about 8 glasses a day. Drink more fluid if you’re exercising or in hot weather.
Sleep. Get enough. Eat right. Have plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein.

Exercise in moderation. Aim for about 2½ hours of moderate exercise a week, such as walking or biking. Talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Physical activity is key in staying healthy. At the same time, you don’t want to overdo it. Rest when you get tired.

Take your medicine. Make sure you take your prescription medicine as directed. Get medical and lab tests that your doctor recommends.

Stay up to date on vaccines. It is critically important to get all recommended vaccines, including the annual flu shot, and pneumococcal and meningococcal vaccines. Common illnesses, like the flu, can quickly become dangerous if you have SCD.

Mental Health Support is also important. SCD is a lifelong disease. It’s normal for people with a chronic (ongoing) disease to feel sad at times, but if these feelings don’t go away get medical care at once.

You must know when to Get Medical Care WebMD points out. Keep an eye out for possible problems caused by SCD. If you have any of the following problems, get medical attention right away: Fever of 101 F or higher; Chest pain; Severe pain that you can’t soothe; Severe headache, dizziness or stiff neck; Seizure
Swelling in your belly; Loss of feeling or movement; For men, a painful erection that lasts more than 4 hours; Problems breathing; Sudden loss of vision.

WebMD says, things that should be avoided when diagnosed with SCD are: Extreme temperatures. Extreme heat or cold, or any swift changes in temperatures, could set off a crisis. Alcohol. It can make you dehydrated. Smoking. This can trigger a lung condition called acute chest syndrome. This is when sickle cells stick together and block oxygen from getting into your lungs.
Infections. Common illnesses can be very serious for people with SCD. Wash your hands before eating or after using the bathroom. Wash your fruits and veggies, and avoid raw meat, eggs, and unpasteurized milk.

Stress. It’s hard to avoid, but stress can trigger a crisis, so try to take time to relax or find techniques that help you calm down.
Heavy physical labor. Though it’s good to get moderate exercise, very intense activities that are exhausting or leave you out of breath should be avoided.

Help from loved ones and friends makes a difference points out WedMD. If your loved one has SCD, you want to help the person to enjoy a normal life. Tips to provide support: Detect signs of crisis. You may be able to tell when your loved one is about to have a sickle cell crisis. Knowing the signs can help you deal with crises quickly or perhaps keep them from happening again.
Provide a support system. Be alert to symptoms, be prepared, and make allowances when necessary (especially for children) when SCD effects crop up.

Help with pain relief. Take an active role in easing pain. This could mean giving a massage, finding a heat pad, or applying bandages. You could help your loved one with breathing exercises or other diversions to help the person relax. Reach out to support services if they are available, join support group or create a support group with friends, families and other persons and their family members with the same diagnosis, connect with others facing similar situations.

Keep your child’s teachers informed. Make sure that teachers, day care workers and other adults who are entrusted with your child’s care know why he may need more frequent water breaks, bathroom breaks, and other issues. Keep up to date on new information on SCD and share the information in the community so that awareness on SCD can increase and as a community give support. SCD is a reality in our community let us give support.