Sickle cell is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders in which the cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle.”
Georgia has one of the highest occurrence rates in the United States, and DeKalb is among the 10 counties in Georgia with the highest incidence of the disease.
Among the events being held throughout the month is a free, one-day “For Adults Only With Sickle Cell Disease Workshop” on Sept. 22 at the Adamsville Recreation Center in Atlanta.
The 9 a.m.-to-3 p.m. workshop is sponsored by the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia Inc. in partnership with the Georgia Department of Public Health, Georgia Health Policy Center, and Southeastern Primary Care Consortium Inc. Atlanta Area Health Education Center.
The nonprofit SPCC Atlanta AHEC serves Fulton, DeKalb and Clayton counties.
Deb McGhee-McCrary, CEO of the Sickle Cell Foundation, said the workshop will help empower people with sickle cell disease to become advocates for their health, to seek appropriate medical care, and to establish a regular medical home rather than relying on emergency rooms.
Participants will hear from hematology specialists with Emory University’s School of Medicine, sickle cell disease support group leaders, and patients living with the disease. The community resources segment will identify services available for uninsured sickle cell patients.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the United States. One of every 500 African-Americans is born with the disease. It is also prevalent among people of Hispanic American, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Asian descent.
More than 2 million people carry the sickle cell gene that allows them potentially to pass the disease on to their children.
The National Institutes of Health says that people with the disease are born with two sickle cell genes – one from each parent. If a person only has one sickle cell gene, it’s called sickle cell trait. About one in 12 African-Americans has sickle cell trait.
A blood test can show if a person has the trait or anemia. Most states test newborn babies as part of their newborn screening programs.
People with the disease can live full lives and enjoy most of the activities that other people do. They start to have signs of the disease during the first year of life, usually about 5 months of age. Symptoms and complications are different for each person and can range from mild to severe.
Swelling in the hands and feet usually is the first symptom. This swelling, often along with a fever, is caused by the sickle cells getting stuck in the blood vessels and blocking the flow of blood to the hands and feet.
Pain is the most common complication of sickle cell disease and a pain episode or “crisis” is the top reason that patients go to the emergency room or hospital.
There is no single best treatment for all people with sickle cell disease. Treatment options are different for each person depending on the symptoms.
Sickle cell patients are advised to get regular checkups, prevent infections, learn healthy habits, look for clinical studies, and get support.
People with sickle cell disease should have their eyes checked every year to look for damage to the retina.
Sickle cell disease patients, especially infants and children, are more at risk for harmful infections. Pneumonia is a leading cause of death in infants and young children with the disease. Vaccinations can protect against harmful infections.
To register for the workshop, visit http://sicklecelladultworkshop.eventbrite.com or call 404-815-4996 or 404-755-1641 for more information.
To find out more about sickle cell or to make a tax-deductible donation, visit www.sicklecellga.org.
The Adamsville Recreation Center and Natatorium is at 3201 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive S.W.