National Sickle Cell Awareness Month is held annually with one goal – to draw public attention to the serious disease of sickle cell anemia. Throughout the month, events are held to raise awareness of the disease, as well as stimulate further research to identify treatments for anemia.
The disease is hereditary and causes red blood cells to become sickle-shaped. As a result, blood cannot move through small vessels and blockage occurs. The disease is accompanied by severe pain and other dangerous symptoms. Sickle cell anemia was officially discovered in 1910. Walter Clement Noel, a student from Grenada, felt severe pain and showed signs of anemia. As a result of the study, Dr. Ernest Irons determined that the patient’s blood cells were shaped like sickles. The case report appeared in the medical journal Internal Medicine, which was the first publication to use the term ‘sickle cells’.
After 17 years, it was found that red blood cells change shape due to oxygen deficiency. The condition has also been established in which red blood cells change shape, but the disease did not manifest itself in any way. By the 1940s, research proved the heredity of anemia.
In the middle of the last century, scientists discovered that patients with this form of anemia also had a change in their hemoglobin structure. In 1970, treatment options were discovered, and accordingly, the life expectancy of patients increased. At the same time, the National Association for Sickle Cell Disease discovered that many people did not understand the essence of the disease, its symptoms, causes, and treatments, so an information campaign was carried out in 1975. The National Sickle Cell Awareness campaign was officially launched the following year. However, this event was only recognized by the government in 1983.
- African Americans are more susceptible to the disease, and Asians, Hispanics, and those of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent are also quite often diagnosed with anemia.
- It is almost impossible to identify anemia by symptoms, since a child can inherit the gene from its parents, but not get sick. It is necessary to undergo an examination.
- There is no single treatment; it is individual for each patient.
- According to statistics, 95% of children with this form of anemia, subject to a healthy lifestyle and regular treatment, live to a ripe old age.
How to take part
Many public organizations hold various events in September – summits, fundraising, and online forums. You can take part in them. Another way to join the noble cause is to donate blood at a medical center or the Red Cross. Consider donating money to anemia research.
When is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month celebrated in 2023?
National Sickle Cell Awareness Month is observed on September 1 each year.