Myths, truths about sickle cell disease

SICKLE cell disease (SCD) is a disorder that affects the red blood cells, caused by one mutation, and is the most common genetic disorder diagnosed worldwide.

As with all health conditions there are common myths associated with SCD. Below, Your Health Your Wealth, through the Ministry of Health and Wellness, clarifies the misconceptions.

1) Myth: SCD patients cannot hold full-time jobs

Truth: Many persons with SCD have held full-time positions in different industries in Jamaica, including senior positions in the public and private sectors. They continue to add value to their organisations and make meaningful contributions to society.

2) Myth: Only black people get SCD

Truth: SCD occurs in all races but is more common in people of African and Asian descent. The association is based on places with malaria, not skin colour.

3) Myth: Everyone with SCD will die early, often by age 30

Truth: On average, people live into their 90s.

4) Myth: The leg ulcer (sore on ankles) and yellow eyes (jaundice) are catching

Truth: You cannot catch SCD, it’s inherited.

5) Myth: Women with SCD are infertile.

Truth: Women with sickle disease are fertile and can have babies. They have to receive specialist care during pregnancy.

6) Myth: If both parents have the sickle cell trait and they have a child with SCD, the next three will be fine. (Risk is ¼)

Truth: Each pregnancy has the same risk (¼ of both parents have the trait.)

7) Myth: You can identify a person with SCD by how they look

Truth: Many people with SCD look no different from people without the disease.

8) Myth: In SCD, the white blood cells eat the red blood cells

Truth: No cell is being eaten by another. Red cells are broken down more quickly because of damage from sickling.

9) Myth: Beetroot and iron supplements will decrease the anaemia in patients with SCD.

Truth: The anaemia in SCD is not caused by iron deficiency and too much iron is bad for these people. People with SCD should eat a healthy diet and not take iron supplements unless directed by their doctor.

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