Sickle Cell Disease; Facts and Myths

“Don’t tell me it happened again,” said Mrs. Ogbonna in hushed tones. Yes, it did, and she’s to blame. Her refusal to perform the prescribed ritual cost her her baby’s life again!" 

Such is the mystery, the pain, the agony and confusion that greets this once poorly-understood condition called sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder in which the blood cells that carry oxygen in our bloodstream, the red blood cell, appear sickled instead of round. This problem stems from a genetic defect that causes red blood cells to appear sickle-shaped. This leads to several problems as this shape does not allow the cells move freely within the bloodstream, causing them to breakdown frequently.  


People believe different things about this disease, causing them to either not care enough for children with the disease or do unhealthy things to these children; here are some myths and facts about this condition.  

Myth: A child born with the sickle cell disease cannot live long 

Fact: Children born with the sickle cell disease can live as long as anyone. There have been stories of persons with the disease living up to as old as 70 and 80, and even older. The key thing is to maintain a healthy routine, which includes drinking lots of water, taking your routine medications, and visiting your doctor as soon as you have a crisis or are about to.  

Myth: Sickle cell disease is a black man’s disease 

Fact: Because we are genetically predisposed, sickle cell disease is very common in Africa, but it isn’t exclusive to the black race. Just like Africans, people from several parts world suffer from the sickle cell disease. 

Myth: Sickle cell disease sufferers have intellectual impairment 

Fact: Sickle cell disease does not impair the intellectual function of the sufferers; in fact, people with sickle cell disease have grown to become prominent persons in different fields of human endeavor. However, the disease does cause a lot of psychological stress to the sufferers, but they retain their intellectual capacities. 


Myth: Sickle cell disease can spread from person to person. 

Fact: Nothing could be farther from the truth. Sickle cell disease is a problem with the genes responsible for red blood cell formation, it is not an infection. It can only spread through birth to parents with the traits or the disease and not by person-to-person contacts. 

Myth: A child can outgrow sickle cell disease  

Fact: With meticulous medical care and support, the pain and discomfort of the sickle cell disease could wane over time, but the genetic state of the disease remains for a lifetime. As long as the genes still carry the defect that causes the sickling of the red blood cells, the disease remains but the symptoms may improve and the individual can still lead a healthy life.  

Myths: Herbs can cure the sickle cell disease 

Fact: With many claims of unproven efficacy, it’s difficult to recommend herbs to replace orthodox medical care. Some herbs may ease the symptoms of the disease in the short term, but it’s only prudent to patronize certified medical facilities. Gambling with your health could worsen an already uncomfortable situation. 


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