Bold Lips For Sickle Cell Challenge

Dr. Jillian Morgan | September 10th, 2014
Dr. Jillian Morgan

Dr. Jillian Morgan

Hello my Healthies! September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month. Sickle cell disease is an inherited disease of the blood that, in the United States, mainly affects African-Americans. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) estimates that approximately 100,000 people in the U.S. have sickle cell disease. More than two million Americans have the sickle cell trait and one in 12 of those individuals are African-American. The disease occurs in more than one out of every 36,000 Hispanic American births.

Sickle cell anemia, the most common form of sickle cell disease, affects cells in the blood called red blood cells (RBC). Red blood cells contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin and this protein carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. An individual with sickle cell anemia has red blood cells that are “sickled” or have a crescent-like shape, whereas normal red blood cells have a disc-shape, similar to a donut with no hole in the middle. This simple change in shape causes major problems with the ability of red blood cells to function properly. When those cells are sickled in shape, they become “sticky” and are unable to move freely through blood vessels. In turn, they block the flow of blood to limbs and other organs in the body. It is this blockage that leads to the pain and other medical complications those individuals with sickle cell disease experience.

Being that sickle cell is an inherited disease, it means that a person diagnosed with sickle cell received one sickle cell trait from their mother and one sickle cell trait from their father. There are some individuals that are just carrier of the sickle cell trait. Carriers of the trait do not actually have the disease; however, they can pass the trait to their offspring. If a person that is a carrier of the trait has a child with another person that carries the trait, there is a 25 percent chance that their child will have sickle cell disease. Prior to having children, a person can be tested to see if they carry the sickle cell trait. I was tested several years ago just out of curiosity and found that test is a simple blood test that can be done anytime you go to the doctor. You can just simply ask the nurse to add the sickle cell test to your blood work.

In the United States, all babies are tested for sickle cell at birth. This early testing is important for the proper management of the disease in young children. While there is no cure for sickle cell, there are treatment options to help manage the disease. The goal of treatment is to minimize the symptoms and complications of the disease. Treatment options include: over-the-counter and prescription medications for pain, as well as the administration of oxygen and fluids to lessen other symptoms. Many individuals with sickle cell will require regular blood transfusions during their lifetime to minimize their risk of life-threatening complications like stroke and to minimize “crisis”, by removing the sickled cells from the blood stream.

The symptoms of the disease can vary from patient to patient; however, almost all people with sickle cell disease experience what is known as “crisis”. An acute sickle cell crisis is characterized by severe pain. This is the event that most often requires hospitalization. Other symptoms and complications of sickle cell disease include shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches and coldness in the hands and feet. The disease can cause complications in several organs including the lungs, spleen, and kidneys, and can increase the risk of infections.

However, there is something we all can do to help support people with sickle cell disease; donate blood. It is important that people receiving blood transfusions receive blood that is as closely matched to their blood as possible. Matches are most quickly and accurately found from blood donated from persons within the recipient’s race group. So for people with sickle cell disease, blood donations from African-Americans are imperative. Some branches of the American Red Cross have a program, “The Blue Tag”, specifically designed to collect blood for sickle cell patients. When giving blood through your local blood bank, ask if they participate in the Blue Tag program. They will then put a blue tag on your donation and it will be set aside to specifically aid someone with sickle cell disease.

In an effort to raise awareness and money for sickle cell disease, social media has been buzzing with the #BoldLipsForSickleCell Challenge; asking ladies to put on their favorite BOLD and bright lipstick color and post their pics with the hashtag #BoldLipsForSickleCell. Men are getting involved too with pics of ladies’ kisses all over their faces! The challenge is to post a picture and donate. To make a donation, go to www.sicklecelldisease.org and click DONATE!

Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, a member of the iconic singing group, TLC, has sickle cell disease and has been extremely vocal in raising awareness about the disease and discussing her methods for managing the illness. She has also been a part of the #BoldLipsforSickleCell movement. Actor Larenz Tate, who garnered fame from movies like “Love Jones” and “Dead Presidents”, utilizes The Tate Foundation, an organization he founded with his brother, to discuss lifestyle choices and encourage healthy living for those, like him, with sickle cell disease. Other notable individuals with sickle cell disease include former NFL running back, Tiki Barber, and Prodigy, member of the legendary rap group, Mobb Deep.

While there is no cure for sickle cell disease, there are ways to manage the symptoms to help make living with the disease more comfortable and life more fulfilling. So, GET YOUR LIFE this month by getting tested for the sickle cell trait to know if you’re a carrier, and donate blood to help those individuals living with the disease. If you have sickle cell disease, I encourage you to make health-conscious choices with lifestyle, diet, etc…and ladies, put on your BOLD lipstick and post pics to raise awareness!
This article is dedicated to the loving memory of my friend and classmate, Rev. Stacey L. Frazier. We miss you, Doc!

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