What causes sickle cell?
Sickle cell disease is usually caused by a defect in a gene that affects how red blood cells develop. This defect results in an abnormal shaped red blood cell.
The defect that results in sickle disease is passed on from parents to children. Both parents (mother and father) can equally contribute to it. As such for a child to become a sickle cell, any of the following scenarios can prevail:
- Both parents have sickle cell
- Both parents are carriers
- One parent is sickle cell and the other is a carrier
So a child with both parents having sickle cell disease will have a higher chance as compared to one where one parent is sickle cell but not the other, then relatively less likely for a child with the parents being carriers.
Some parents may not really have the sickle cell disease but may be carriers and with that, they can still pass it on to their children.
The sickle cell is designated as “S” and so for a person to have sickle cell disease, they must have “SS” (HbSS). For a normal person, the hemoglobin is designated as “A” hence, you will see “AA” (HbAA) for anyone who does not have sickle cell and has no traits of it.
As such, a carrier of the sickle cell carrier will have “AS” (HbAS) hemoglobin.
To know your status, you have to go for a test called HB electrophoresis and the results will be any of the following:
- Normal hemoglobin (HbAA)
- Sickle Cell Carrier (HbAS)
- Sickle Cell Disease (HbSS)
Thus what causes sickle cell in a child has nothing to do with the diet or environment but purely genetics. The only way to avoid it is to counsel all couples to get screened for the their sickling status and advice themselves accordingly.
However, it must also be noted that, it is a probability in most cases and doesn’t guarantee a 100% occurrence of the sickle cell disease. It all depends on the sickling status of the parents. The probabilities are shown below:
- Both parents have normal hemoglobin = 0%
- Both Parents have sickle cell disease = 100%
- Both are carriers = 25% (but 50% are likely to carriers)
- One parent has sickle cell disease and the other is a carrier = 50% (and 50% are likely to be carriers)
- One parent is a carrier and the other is normal = 0% (but 50% are likely to carriers)
- One parent is normal and the other is sickle cell = 0% (all the children will be carriers)
Is sickle cell curable?
As it stands now, sickle cell disease can only be well managed but not cured. Although, there are medical interventions that can be used to effectively managed the condition and prevent complications. Another treatment option that can be considered is bone marrow transplant.
It’s always better to discuss with a medical doctor for the best treatment options that are individually-centered
WRITTEN AND EDITED RESPECTIVELY BY:
Dr. Ehoneah Obed is a registered pharmacist and a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana. He has a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and has experience working in a Tertiary hospital as well as various community pharmacies. He is also a software engineer interested in healthcare technologies.
His love for helping others motivates him to create content on an array of topics mostly relating to the health of people and also software engineering content.
He is knowledgeable in digital marketing, content marketing, and a host of other skills that make him versatile enough to uplift any team he joins.