By Alicia Lacy

Killeen Daily Herald

Prevalent in the black community, sickle cell anemia affects an estimated 100,000 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the trait for the disease is carried by millions more.

The genetic blood disorder is common in those who come from Africa, South or Central America, the Caribbean islands and Mediterranean countries.

With about 2 million Americans carrying the trait, one in every 12 black people has the sickle cell trait, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Web site said.

Sickle cell anemia affects the blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.

Healthy blood cells are round; blood cells in people who have the disorder have sickle, or crescent, blood cells that become hard and sticky, making it hard for blood to travel through blood vessels. Often, clumps form in vessels.

These clumps in the vessels can damage organs and cause severe pain and infections.

Causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention

The disease occurs when a baby receives two sickle traits – one from each parent.

The disorder can be detected through blood tests, even while a baby is still in its mother's womb.

According to the CDC, the disease is present in 1 out of every 500 black births and 1 out of every 36,000 Hispanic births.

Common symptoms of the disorder include abdominal pain, bone pain, breathlessness, fatigue, fever, jaundice, paleness, rapid heart rate and ulcers in the lower legs.

Usually, symptoms don't occur until after a child is 4 months old, the Scott & White Web site said.

Other symptoms include chest pain, strokes, poor eyesight and skin ulcers.

According to Scott & White Hospital, sickling of the red blood cells can be prevented by maintaining up-to-date immunizations, getting adequate fluids and oxygen and promptly treating infections.

The only cure for sickle cell disease is a bone marrow or stem cell transplant, the CDC Web site said.


The Central Texas Sickle Cell Anemia Association will host the 27th annual Sickle Cell Telethon from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.

The six-hour telethon raises funds for the organization, so the association can support sickle cell patients and their families through genetic testing, financial and emotional support, awareness programs and medical referrals.

Last year's telethon collected nearly $7,000.

The telethon will be at two locations: the Fox 44 Studio in Waco and the Plaza Hotel in Killeen.

Appearances by the Williams Brothers, Lee Williams, the Canton Spirituals, Charlie Daniels and other local choirs are scheduled.

For more information, call the association at (254) 690-6060 or (254) 752-3441.

Read more about the telethon in Friday's Daily Herald.

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