ST. CLOUD -- It's a disease that is not often thought about, but affects many lives each year.

September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month.

CentraCare Health Genetic Counselor Emily Sandberg says sickle cell is a genetic disease that affects red blood cells.

"Sickle cell is an inherited genetic condition that sickles the red blood cells," says Sandberg.

Red blood cells are typically round in shape and when they sickle the red blood cell becomes sharp and jagged.

Sandberg says everyone one has a copy of the gene, but parents who are both carries can increase their kids chances of inheriting it.

"If one parent has an alteration and the other parent has one copy there is a 25 percent chance their child would have the disease," says Sandberg.

The American Red Cross is also reminding you about sickle cell during the month.

Communication Program Manager Sue Thesenga says sickle cell is the most common blood disorder in the United States.

"It affects over 100-thousand people and each year almost 1,000 babies are born with this disease," says Thsesenga.

Thesenga say this time of year is a good reminder for you to donate blood to help people fight the disease.

"Typically a sickle cell patient receives 50 to 100 units of blood every year so it's very important to have a diverse blood supply on hand," says Thesenga.

While there is no cure, both experts say knowing how to manage the disease and help others improves the odds for people with sickle cell live a normal life.

 

Genetic Counselor Emily Sandberg shows us what sickle cell looks like (Photo: Alex Svejkovsky, WJON News)