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So, about the Sickle Cell Trait

So, about the Sickle Cell Trait

Every year on June 19, healthcare providers, Sickle Cell Warriors, and their loved ones come together to raise awareness about Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). SCD is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders where the hemoglobin is abnormal, causing the red blood cells to become hard, sticky, and take on a C-shape. Sometimes these abnormal cells get stuck and block the blood flow, leading to a painful episode called a crisis.

While many people are familiar with Sickle Cell Disease, not everyone knows about the Sickle Cell Trait (SCT). In this blog, we’llbreak it down for you with the help of Dr Vanessa Cumming, Medical Officer at the UWI Sickle Cell Unit.

The sickle cell trait is an inherited blood disorder where individuals carry one defective gene that affects hemoglobin.

Important to note is that the Sickle Cell Trait cannot be ‘caught’, only inheritedOne normal gene from one parent and one sickle gene from the other parent has to be passed on to the childThis would then mean that their hemoglobin genotype is AS instead of the normal AA, and that they are carriers of the sickle gene.

Although closely related to SCD there is a great difference between the trait and the disease. The SCT is not a disease, and carriers of the trait usually lead normal lives, unlike those living with SCD. People with Sickle Cell Disease have two abnormal hemoglobin genes, with at least one being an S gene.

Generally, the Sickle Cell Trait is not harmful. However, it has to be consideredwhen planning to have children since carriers need to know what genes they could potentially pass on. Also, on occasion people with the trait might experience blood in their urine (haematuria), develop blood clots more easily, or even have a pain crisis under certain conditions. For the most part, however, carriers live lives regularly.

If someone with the trait experiences symptoms, they usually don’t need to see a specialist unless general practitioners are having trouble understanding their health problems.

Whilean SCT carrier can have a crisis, it’s very unlikely. Someone with the sickle trait would have to be in unusual situations with really high altitudes and low oxygentension to experience a pain crisis. Such cases are rare.

The Sickle Cell Trait is more common than we realize with about 10% of the Jamaican population is living with the condition (HbAS). As carriers,this can affect how many children are born with Sickle Cell Disease. That’s why it’s encouraged for people to get tested if there is a family member with SCD. It helps to be aware of their status and hemoglobin genotype, enabling them to make informed decisions about family planning.

The Sickle Cell Disease is one of the 17 conditions covered by the National Health Fund. If you or a loved one is facing this reality, make sure to sign up for the NHFCard to save on medication.

Remember, spreading awareness about Sickle Cell Disease and the Sickle Cell Trait is crucial. So let’s continue to educate ourselves and support those living with these conditions.

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