September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month.
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) and Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) are genetic disorders. A person with SCD has many red blood cells that instead of being shaped like discs, are shaped as the letter C, like a sickle. Such cells are stiff and sticky, and tend to form clumps or get stuck in blood vessels. Those clumps block blood flow and may lead to pain, infection or organ damage. Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) is not a disease, but having it means that a person has inherited the sickle cell gene from one of their parents and could pass it on to their children. Most people with SCT do not have symptoms, but have been shown to be more vulnerable to heat stroke and muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis) during strenuous exercise. In the United States, sickle cell affects about 70,000 people. A simple blood test can be done to find out if a person has sickle cell. To learn more, click here.