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September marks Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month
Date: 2012-08-29 19:37:06

Medical experts from the Cancer Institute of New Jersey (CINJ) are reminding the public that September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month. People who are at risk for this disorder may find out their status with help from a blood test.

Between 90,000 and 100,000 individuals in the U.S. have sickle cell disease, according to experts from the CINJ. This condition causes the production of defective red blood cells that tend to become hard and sticky, taking on the shape of the letter "C." These cells die more quickly and may clog the blood vessels, potentially leading to anemia, organ damage, infections and severe pain.

Individuals at highest risk of the disease include those who are descended from Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Saudi Arabia, India and the Mediterranean. In the U.S., one in 500 African Americans has sickle cell disease.

However, experts from the CINJ point out that having this disorder does not necessarily mean that patients cannot live active and healthy lives. These individuals can be functional with the help of regular medical checkups.

A blood test to measure levels of the abnormal protein hemoglobin S can diagnose sickle cell disease and inform patients of their risks in passing the disorder to their descendants.

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