Why Sickle Cell Anemia Affects African Americans More Than Any Other Ethnicity
Updated: Sep 20
According to NORD, approximately 1 in 10 Americans suffers from a rare disease. Within this population, there are several types of rare disorders that affect certain races more than others. One example is sickle cell anemia, a rare disease that African Americans are primarily diagnosed with. Let’s look at why sickle cell anemia is prominent in the African American community.
Sickle cell anemia is a part of a group of disorders called sickle cell disease. Sickle cell anemia is a genetically inherited blood cell disorder that occurs when there is an insufficient number of red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body. With sickle cell anemia, the irregularly shaped red blood cells get stick to small blood vessels, causing blockage of blood and oxygen to different parts of the body, according to the Mayo Clinic.
As of now, there is not a cure for sickle cell anemia, however, there are several treatment options for patients to take to relieve pain and prevent complications. One of the best treatment methods is to have a bone and blood marrow transplant.
For those carrying the sickle cell trait but are diagnosed with the disorder, it’s essential that they seek a genetic counselor before trying to conceive, as they may give birth to a child with sickle cell anemia. An infant can develop sickle cell disease if both parents carry the sickle cell trait.
For African Americans, they are at higher risk of developing sickle cell anemia as many carry the sickle cell trait (SCT). Data from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) report that 1 out of every 365 African-American babies are born with sickle cell disease.
As reported by MedicalNewsToday, the sickle cell trait originates from sub-Saharan Africa, in which the sickle cell trait acted as a protectant against malaria, a common disease in several regions of Africa. Those who have ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to carry the trait, which may reduce their chances of developing malaria infections.
Fortunately, there is a lot information about sickle cell anemia and sickle cell disease, as well as genetic counseling that can help educate those at-risk of developing or passing on the sickle cell trait.