September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month.  Most of us know at least one person who is affected by the ailment, but do we really know what sickle cell disease is?

What is sickle cell disease?

The average person's red blood cells are round, which makes them easier to flow through our bodies.  For a person with sickle cell disease, many of cells are sickle-shaped.  According to the CDC, these cells also die early. The pointed ends of a sickle-shaped cell sometimes "jam," which is can cause a number of issues for the individual and is quite painful.

According to the American Society of Hematology, roughly 70,000 to 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease. However, approximately 8 percent of African Americans are affected by sickle cell trait, which means the person carries only one defective gene rather than two as in a person with sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease is also more common in some ethnic groups including African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and people of Middle Eastern, Asian, Indian, and Mediterranean descent.

Testing for sickle cell disease is simple and is now performed at birth in the US.  There have been significant advancements in research within the past few decades, and some people have even been cured through bone marrow transplants. However, more research is needed and is being done until no child comes into this world with this disease.

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