Sickle cell disease represents a group of blood related disorders where hemoglobin is predominant and one of these disorders is sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell anemia is a disorder that is inherited and is passed from one generation to the next through blood relations. It is a lifelong disorder that is characterized by abnormal production of hemoglobin which particularly affects the red blood cells making them rough and to assume the shape of a sickle. It is these abnormally shaped cells that cause one to feel pain and to be anemic.
The disease is prevalent in people who hails or are in the sub tropical and tropical regions like in Mediterranean and Africa, and that is why in the United States it is the African Americans who are affected most. People who suffer from this disorder have short life expectancy with that for males and females being 42 and 48 respectively. This research paper is going to mainly focus on sickle cell anemia on African American children and will discuss the causes of disorder, symptoms and how it can be treated. The paper will also give its statistics that are available.
The disease was introduced in the Americas by the transatlantic slave trade where Africans were captured from Africa and taken to the new world as slaves to work in plantations. It is estimated that millions of people in the world suffer from this disorder but it is approximated that US has about 72,000 people who are affected and most of the affected are those of African descent. What happens when one is suffering from this disease is that the defective hemoglobin clusters themselves together making it hard for them to go through the blood vessels leading to blockage of blood.
Defective red blood cells have a shorter life span than normal ones. A normal red cell is supposed to stay active for about a hundred and twenty days but the defective one lasts for less than twenty days leading to a shortage of red blood cells in the body which in turn results to anemia. When this happens, oxygen supply in the body is cut and the victim experiences a lot of pain in the blood vessels (Collins and Pinn 51) In the United States, sickle cell disease according to statistics affects one child per every five hundred African American children and one Hispanic American child per 1,000-1,400 children.
The disease is hereditary and is thus passed from generations to generations. Some people possess the defective genes but they are not affected by the disease. If two people with these genes marry, there is high probability that one of their children will suffer from this disorder. According to Bloom (850), the probability of a child who is born by parents that one of them is affected by sickle cell trait, is fifty percent.
A child who is born by parents where one of them carries the trait does not show symptoms of the disease and their hemoglobin and red blood cells are normal but if both parents have it, a state that is known as heterozygous, then the child born suffers from sickle cell anemia. The sickle cell trait affects 10 percent of blacks in America but in Africa, the percentage is higher. “Sickle cell disease, the homozygous condition, is estimated to occur in as many as 1 in 400 African American newborns. Approximately 8 percent of American blacks are carriers of the sickle cell trait, the heterozygous condition” (Faden and Geller 67)
To establish the extent the disease affected African American children, Thompson et al (281), perused death certificate records for children aged 14 years in the period between 1968 and 1992 and were analyzed. It was found that about 55 children who died were below the age of five and that in every 1000 deaths of African American children, thirty seven of them died of sickle cell disease. To establish children who are suffering from sickle cell anemia in US, a diagnostic testis done on all children after birth.
If the test is positive or in other words if the test shows abnormal presence of hemoglobin another blood test is conducted for clarity sake. About 8 percent of African Americans who do not themselves suffer from the disease have within them the traits that make them capable of transmitting the same to their children when they are born. Some of them are aware that they have it but others are unaware and therefore they go ahead and marry only to infect their children especially, if they marry another person with the same traits (Bloom 1)
The common symptoms of this disease are; the affected persons may develop other complications like jaundice where ones eyes turn yellowish due to shortage of red blood cells. Children who are suffering from this disease experience severe pain in their stomach, arms, chest, and legs as well as in other areas. The reason for this pain is defective sickle shaped cells which block blood vessels. Because of this, the heart pumps the blood even harder to overcome or to break through the barriers. When this happens, the blood veins are stretched something that causes pain that may last ranging from hours to days.
Children suffering from this disorder have stunted growth, their bodies are poor in fighting off infections, frequently feel tired even while not working and mature slowly than others (Collins and Pinn 52) There is no single cure for sickle cell disease and for this reason its victims nurse the disease for the rest of their lives but some medications are given whenever one is discovered for example, children under the age of five years are given antibiotics like penicillin to prevent strokes and other infections and the program is started immediately they are born.
Blood transfusion is done to those children who may be seriously affected so as to increase the healthy red blood cells. Sickle cell anemia disease is a very common disease in the United States. It affects all groups but it commonly affects the African Americans. This disease is hereditary and thus it is transferred from one generation to the next through blood. Many people are carriers of this trait but are not aware and thus when they marry another person with the same traits, the chances of giving birth to a child who will suffer from this disease are higher.
Most of African American children who suffer from this disease die while still young although their mortality rate has been significantly reduced due to improved medical services. The disease results when the red blood cells in the body become defective. They acquire a rough texture which makes it easier for them to cluster together in the blood vessel thereby blocking the flow of blood. When this happens, pain results and one feels exhausted and in extreme make one fall into a coma due to shortage of oxygen.