World Sickle Cell Day Shines a Light on the Disease and the Need for a Cure

The Virginia Department of Health is joining organizations around the globe in bringing more awareness to sickle cell disease (SCD). Sickle cell disease is an inherited lifelong condition that primarily affects people of African descent. SCD gets its name from sickle-shaped red blood cells. Unlike normal blood cells that are shaped like round discs, sickle cells are stiff and do not move through blood vessels easily. This causes painful blockages, referred to as a “pain crisis.” A crisis can last a few hours, a few days or longer. The blockages can result in tissue damage, strokes, organ damage and other serious medical complications.

Recently, the FDA approved two milestone treatments for SCD. The cell-based gene therapies treat SCD in patients 12 years and older.

In Virginia, all babies are screened for sickle cell disease. Newborns diagnosed with the condition, or a similar inherited blood disorder are referred to a Care Connection for Children Center.

The Virginia Department of Health funds three initiatives related to SCD.

  1.  Virginia Sickle Cell Awareness Program
  2. the Pediatric Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinic Network
  3. the Adult Comprehensive Sickle Cell Clinic Network.

Each of the programs focuses on a certain area of need, such as screening, financial support, education, or health care. For more information about SCD, including resources visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website.