Sickle cell disorder is a group of illnesses which affect the red blood cells. It is a genetic condition, meaning it is passed on from parents to their unborn children.
Sickle cell disorder or disease occurs when normally round and flexible blood cells become stiff and sickle-shaped, stopping the blood cells, and the oxygen they carry, from being able to move freely around the body and causing pain.
This can cause episodes of severe pain. These painful episodes are referred to as sickle cell crisis. They are treated with strong painkillers such as morphine to control the pain.
People with sickle cell are also at risk of complications such as stroke, acute chest syndrome, blindness, bone damage and priapism (a persistent, painful erection of the penis).
Over time, people with sickle cell can experience damage to organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs, heart, and spleen. Death can also result from complications of the disorder.
The United Nations recognizes June 19th of every year as World Sickle Cell Day to raise awareness on the condition at national and international level.
To mark this year’s WSCD, a Professor of Anatomy, Oladapo Ashiru, has said that with the advent of new technology, carriers of sickle cell anaemia would be able to avoid giving birth to children with the condition.
Prof. Ashiru in an interview with PUNCH correspondent said it was important for everyone to know their genotypes before going into any relationship that would lead to marriage. He said,
“For those who are married and are sickle cell carriers, the danger is that they can have a child, who is also a carrier.
In this age, there should be no reason why they should bring a child with sickle cell anaemia into the world because there are now technologies available to determine the genetic composition of a baby before the embryo is implanted.
We now have infrastructures in Nigeria which can allow couples who are sickle cell carriers have a pre-conception determination of their baby to ensure they don’t have a sickle cell baby and we have done that successfully to help a lot of people who are sickle cell carriers to have normal children.”
Ashiru said it was key for intending couples to check their genotypes and seek counselling from medical practitioners before going ahead with their marital plan.