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Misconceptions and Myths about Sickle Cell Disease Debunked

Misconceptions and Myths about Sickle Cell Disease

Like any other disease, there are many misconceptions and myths associated with sickle cell disease (SCD) because of low awareness. Misperceptions only make it more difficult for those living with SCD to obtain the support and care they need.  In this article, we share and debunk some of these misconceptions and myths to help people understand facts about SCD and how it affects them:

Sickle Cell Disease is a “Black People’s” Disease

False! According to reports from the National Institute of Health (NIH), sickle cell anaemia is widespread among people whose families come from Africa, Central or South America, Caribbean islands, the Mediterranean such as Greece, Turkey, and Italy, and also India and Saudi Arabia. Note that Giovanna Poli, the 2009 Sickle Cell Poster Child is white.

Sickle Cell Disease is Contagious

False! People cannot “catch” SCD. Someone can only get sickle cell by being born with it because it is a genetically inherited condition. Both parents of a child must carry the sickle cell trait or have the disease before their child can inherit SCD. Since the disease is genetic, only people who received mutated genes from both of their parents have it.

A Person Who Carries the Sickle Cell Trait will Develop Sickle Cell Disease

False! Having the sickle cell trait does not imply that one will automatically have the disease. The trait and the disease are different. A person who is born with only one copy of the sickle cell gene is said to have sickle cell trait and cannot have SCD because it takes two copies of the sickle cell gene for a baby to inherit SCD. It’s only when both parents have the sickle cell trait that they can pass the disease on to their child. This explains why it is incredibly important to always test for sickle cell trait or diseases. You can diagnose it through a simple blood test or screening at birth.

SCD as an Incurable Dilemma

False! Some SCD patients have been treated successfully using the bone marrow transplantation procedure. In the procedure, the doctor collects healthy cells from a donor’s (a sibling) bone marrow and transfers them into the patient.  Also called the stem cell transplant, the process is both very expensive and risky. Besides, an SCD patient can also improve the quality of their life with healthy lifestyle changes.

 

People Born with SCD Don’t Live Long

False! Before the 1990s, SCD was quite life-threatening as many children born with it hardly lived to adulthood. Thanks to advances in SCD medication, care, and proper lifestyle practices, SCD patients now live healthy and active long lives. However, more work still has to be done to further improve SCD treatment outcomes worldwide and particularly in developing countries.

The best way SCD patients can lower their chances of difficulty living with the disease is to get regular medical checkups, follow-ups, prescribed medications, preventive actions against unrelated infections, and a healthy diet. Do you have any other information about sickle cell disease or trait and doubt if it’s a myth? Ask me in the box below and I will be glad to clarify.

 

 

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