World Sickle Cell Day 2020: Important date, History, Causes, Symptoms of World Sickle Cell & Key Facts

World Sickle Cell Day 2020: World Sickle Cell Day is celebrated on June 19 every year with an aim to create awareness about sickle cell disease and its preventive measures. Get the information about the history of World Sickle Cell Day, causes, symptoms and treatments of sickle cell disease in the article.

Updated: Jun 10, 2020 11:20 IST

World Sickle Cell Day 2020: Important date, History, Causes, Symptoms of World Sickle Cell & Key Facts

Roselet Sheena Merli

World Sickle Cell Day 2020

World Sickle cell day is observed on June 19 annually since 2008. Sickle cell affects millions of people(both children and adults) around the world. 
This day is celebrated for a better understanding of sickle cell disease and the problems faced by patients and their families. Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) statistics nearly 100 million people are affected by sickle-cell disease and over 3,00,000 children are born every year with the condition. 

What is the history of World Sickle Cell Day?

The United Nations General Assembly(UNGA) adopted a resolution that recognizes the sickle cell disease as a public health problem on 22nd December 2008. This resolution calls for members of various organizations worldwide to join their hands to raise awareness of sickle cell disease every year of June 19. The World Sickle Cell Day was first celebrated on 19th June 2009. Sickle cell disease is one of the World's foremost genetic diseases. 

Even the World Health Organisation(WHO) adopted a resolution on sickle cell disease in the 59th World Health Assembly in May 2006 to:

  • To increase awareness of the international community of the global burden of these sickle cell disease

  • To promote fair access to health services

  • To provide technical support for the prevention and management of these disorders

  • To support the research to improve the quality of life for those who are affected.

What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease or sickle cell anaemia is an inherited red blood cell disorder in which red blood cells are not capable enough to carry an adequate amount of oxygen throughout the body. Normally, the red blood cells are round in shape and flexible to move easily through the blood vessels. But in sickle cell anaemia, the red blood cells become sticky and shaped like sickles or crescent moons. Due to its sticky and rigid nature, it gets stuck in the smaller blood vessels which will slow down or block the blood flow and also reduce the oxygen supply to the other parts of the body. This will reduce the lifespan of red blood cells and causes anaemia hence it is known as sickle cell anaemia.

What are the causes of sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell anemia is caused by a mutation in the gene, HBB. HBB makes the iron-rich compound(hemoglobin) that makes blood red and it allows the red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to all the parts of the body. In sickle cell anemia, the abnormal hemoglobin causes red blood cells to become rigid, sticky, and form stiff fibers. These fibers distort the shape of red blood cells and make them fragile.

What are the symptoms of sickle cell disease?

Signs and symptoms of sickle cell anemia usually appear at a young age. They may appear in babies around 5 months of age. Common symptoms of sickle cell anemia are listed below:

  • Excessive fatigue or irritability

  • Fussiness in babies

  • Bedwetting associated kidney problems

  • Jaundice - yellowing of the eyes and skin

  • Swelling and pain in hands and feet

  • Frequent infections

  • Pain in the chest, back, arms or legs

  • Delayed growth or puberty

  • Vision problem

What complications can arise from sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell anemia causes a lot of severe complications which are listed below:

  • Stroke

  • Acute chest syndrome

  • Pulmonary hypertension

  • Organ damage

  • Blindness

  • Leg ulcers

  • Gallstones

  • Priapism

  • Pregnancy complications

  • Hand-foot syndrome

  • Severe anemia

  • Delayed growth

What are the treatments for sickle cell disease?

There are various treatments available to prevent complications and lengthen the lives of the affected people. The treatments will vary based on the condition and symptoms of the patients. Some of the treatments to treat sickle cell anemia are listed below:

  • Rehydration with intravenous fluids

  • Treating underlying or associated infections to manage the crisis. An infection may also result as a complication of a sickle cell crisis

  • Blood transfusions improve the transport of oxygen as required 

  • By providing supplemental oxygen through a mask to make the breathing easier and improves oxygen levels in the blood

  • Providing pain medication to relieve the pain during a sickle crisis

  • Medication like Droxia, Hydrea helps to increase the production of fetal hemoglobin

  • Immunizations can help prevent infections

  • Bone marrow transplant is also used to treat sickle cell anemia

Key facts of Sickle Cell Anemia

  • The disease is known as sickle cell anemia because the shape of the red blood cells is hard, sticky and looks like a C-shaped farm tool called sickle

  • It is hereditary but not contagious

  • It is an incurable illness but can be prevented by pre-marital screening

  • The sickle cell anemia is different from iron deficiency anemia

  • Some people with sickle cell anemia does not develop with any symptoms

  • Although sickle cell disease doesn't have a definite cure, proper treatments and preventive measures can relieve the pain and lengthen the lives. Therefore, World Sickle Cell Day is celebrated by medical research works along with the public awareness campaigns to educate people about this condition.

What is the World Sickle Cell Day 2019 Theme?

The theme for World Sickle Cell Day 2019 was “Sickle Cell Community Embracing Change Together” which was announced by Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc. The theme aimed to spread awareness about sickle cell disease, its preventive measures, and their families goes through.

World Sickle Cell Day - FAQ

1. What should sickle cell patients avoid?

Patients should avoid alcohol, non prescribed drugs, cigarettes, cocaine, and seeking care in many medical institutions.

2. What happens when both parents have sickle cell trait?

People who inherit two genes (one from each parent) have sickle cell disease. The most common situation occurs when each parent has one sickle cell gene.

3. Does sickle cell get worse with age?

People with sickle cell disease start to have signs or symptoms of the disease during the first year of life, usually around 5 months of age.  Sickle Cell Disease is a disease that worsens over time.

4. What triggers sickle cell crisis?

Sickle Cell disease may be triggered by low oxygen levels, increased blood acidity or low blood volume. Some of the common sickle cell crisis triggers are sudden changes in temperature which can make the blood vessels narrow due to the shortage of oxygen.

5. What does sickle cell feel like?

Sudden pain occurs anywhere in the body, such as the arms, legs, joints, back, or chest during a sickle cell crisis. Pain may be mild or severe and can last for a few hours or a few days or sometimes longer.

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