Inaugurated in 1980, the group aims to:
- Raise awareness, understanding and knowledge of the condition
- Provide information and advice
- Give support to sufferers, their families and carers
- Offer counselling where necessary
What is sickle cell disease?
Sickle cell disease is the name we give to a group of related conditions. These conditions affect haemoglobin – the substance in our blood that carries oxygen around our body.
Some conditions are more serious than others. We call the most serious form sickle cell anaemia and write it as Hb-SS. Other conditions that need treatment include Hb-SC and Hb S beta thalassaemia, among others.
Sickle cell disease affects the ability to carry oxygen around your body using your red blood cells. Normally, red blood cells carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. The cells are round and flexible, allowing them to easily move around your body.
However, in people with sickle cell disease, the shape and texture of the blood cells can change. They become hard and sticky and are shaped like sickles, or crescents. The cells die more quickly than usual blood cells so that people do not have enough red blood cells. This causes the symptoms of anaemia, such as tiredness and breathlessness.
If you have sickle cell disease, your blood cells can get stuck when moving through small blood vessels, stopping the supply of oxygen to parts of your body. This is known as a ‘sickling crisis’. This can cause pain, tissue damage, and can lead to other serious complications, such as a stroke, or blindness.
The only cure for sickle cell anaemia is a bone marrow transplant. However, the procedure has many potentially serious side-effects and is not recommended for all cases.
The symptoms of sickle cell anaemia can be treated, and people with the condition can learn how to help prevent sickling crises from happening.