September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month, and Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is raising awareness and educating our community on sickle cell anemia. This life-threatening disease affects millions of people, and the treatment could be in your blood.
Every September, our nation comes together to bring awareness to the disease and dispel its myths and stigmas. The month also brings attention to the ongoing need for research, better care practices, new treatments, and an eventual cure. Sickle Cell Anemia is an inherited blood disorder marked by defective hemoglobin. It commonly causes oval-shaped red blood cells to assume a sickle-like shape, from which the disease gets its name. One critical problem with these sickle-shaped cells is that they reduce the blood flow through the body, causing pain and life-threatening health conditions.
The disease affects approximately 100 million people worldwide and 100,000 Americans yearly, mainly in our African American and Hispanic communities. Sickle Cell Disease occurs among 1 out of every 365 African American births and 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic births, and 1 in 13 African American babies is born with the sickle cell trait. Stem cell or bone marrow transplants are the only cure for sickle cell but are generally considered in patients with severe symptoms that have not responded to other treatments due to the risks involved and do not always work.
Blood transfusions may be used to prevent complications associated with sickle cell disease by decreasing the concentration of sickle hemoglobin in the blood. African Americans are more likely to be a match for most individuals with Sickle Cell Disease in the United States, making them ideal donors to help Sickle Cell Disease patients receive regular blood transfusions. According to America's Blood Centers (ABC), one in three African American blood donors is a match for a sickle cell patient.
“Blood Transfusion remains one of the most therapeutic interventions for Sickle Cell Disease to treat the resulting anemia and pain episode complications,” said Topaz Montague, Associate Vice President of Project Management Office and Laboratory Services at Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center. “As a genetic disease, African-American donors have an increased chance of being a match for patients with Sickle Cell Disease compared to other ethnic groups. Please donate or spread the word for others to donate today,” Montague said.
Regarding blood donations, researchers have found that African Americans are under-represented among donors and that minority donors, in general, are less likely to become regular donors. African American individuals make up 13% of the U.S. population and 23% of the Houston population, but less than 3% of blood donors. A more diverse blood supply is needed in our community to treat diseases such as sickle cell.
Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is the sole provider of blood and blood components 24/7 to more than 170 hospitals and health care facilities in a 26-county Texas Gulf Coast region. Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center is a nonprofit organization and is accredited by the Food and Drug Administration.