Health

World Sickle Cell Day 2020 aims to increase awareness over sickle cell disorders

It is recognised by the United Nations and celebrated every year on June 19

 
By Ashis Senapati
Last Updated: Friday 19 June 2020
Sickle cell disorders cause a person’s normally round and flexible blood cells to become stiff and sickle shaped Photo: Wikimedia Commons

World Sickle Cell Day — recognised by the United Nations and celebrated every year on June 19 — aims to increase awareness of sickle cell disorders at the national and international level.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognising sickle cell disease as a public health problem on December 22, 2008.

Sickle cell disorders are a group of illnesses that affect red blood cells. They cause a person’s normally round and flexible blood cells to become stiff and sickle shaped, stopping them — and the oxygen they carry — from moving freely around the body.

This can cause episodes of severe pain, referred to as sickle cell crises. They are treated with strong painkillers, such as morphine, to control the pain.

People with sickle cell disorders are also at a risk of complications: Stroke, acute chest syndrome, blindness, bone damage and priapism.

Over time, people with sickle cell disorders can experience damage to organs including the liver, kidney, lungs, heart and spleen. Death can also result from complications of the disorder. Treatment of sickle cell disorders mostly focuses on preventing and treating complications.

The disease in India occurs predominantly in eastern Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, western Odisha and in pockets of the Nilgiri Hills in north Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

In Odisha, the disease is prevalent among tribal communities. The Odisha government — under the National Health Mission — established its first sickle cell institute on the campus of the Veer Surendra Sai Institute of Medical Sciences and Research (VIMSAR) at Burla in Sambalpur district.

The institute opened up sickle cell units in 12 districts in western Odisha as well, said Jayashree Dora, the superintendent of VIMSAR.

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