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Sickle Cell Disease FAQs



  Apr 03, 2024

Sickle Cell Disease FAQs



What is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)?

SCD is a genetic blood disorder that affects the shape and function of red blood cells. Instead of being round and flexible, cells become rigid, crescent-shaped, or "sickled," leading to various complications, including blockage of blood flow, pain, and organ damage.


Who is affected by Sickle Cell Disease?

SCD primarily affects individuals of African, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and South Asian ancestry. It is particularly prevalent in tribal communities in India, with the country having one of the highest numbers of SCD births globally.

What are the symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease?

Symptoms of SCD can vary but often include severe pain, fatigue, anemia, swelling in the hands and feet, frequent infections, and delayed growth in children.

How is Sickle Cell Disease diagnosed?

SCD is diagnosed through blood tests, including the hemoglobin electrophoresis test, which can identify the sickle hemoglobin gene.

What treatments are available for Sickle Cell Disease?

Treatment options include pain management, hydroxyurea (a medication that reduces the frequency of pain crises), blood transfusions, and, in some cases, bone marrow or stem cell transplants. Recently,gene-editing technologies like CRISPR have emerged as potential treatments, though accessibility and cost remain significant barriers.

Why is access to treatment a challenge for Sickle Cell Disease?

Access to treatment is hampered by several factors, including the high cost of advanced therapies, lack of availability of basic treatments like hydroxyurea at all healthcare levels, and the difficulty in finding matched donors for bone marrow transplants. These challenges are exacerbated in marginalized communities and regions with under-resourced health systems.

What is being done to improve access to Sickle Cell Disease treatments?

Efforts to improve access include the National Sickle Cell Anaemia Elimination Mission in India, aimed at eliminating SCD by 2047, and the development of more affordable gene-editing treatments. However, significant work remains to ensure these advancements are accessible to all affected individuals. Understanding and addressing Sickle Cell Disease requires a comprehensive approach that includes improving basic healthcare access, advancing and making new treatments more affordable, and focusing on the needs of marginalized communities disproportionately affected by this condition.


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