Researches have shown that Nigeria has the largest population of people with Sickle Cell Disease in the world, with over 150,000 babies born with the serious condition every year.
Mr Lanre Alege, a Pharmacist with the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, said this in a lecture delivered during June edition of the keep fit exercise for staff of the hospital at the Kwara stadium on Saturday.
He said it was estimated that only five per cent of the children with Sickle Cell Disease live past the age of 10 in Nigeria, compared to over 96 per cent surviving into adulthood in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Alege, who is the Coordinator of the programme, also disclosed that the recurrent pain and complications of the disease can interfere with many aspects of patients life, including education, employment and psychological development.
He said that Sickle Cell Disease is a genetic disorder due to the presence of an abnormal form of haemoglobin in the red blood cells, called haemoglobin S (Hb S) instead of haemoglobin A (Hb A).
According to him, the red blood cells (Erythrocytes) may contain normal haemoglobin AA only, a mixture of A and S (Hb AS) or S only.
“Persons with AS haemoglobin have sickle cell traits, and are referred to as sickle cell carriers, while those with haemoglobin SS only (Hb SS) suffers from sickle cell disease.
“Those with AA are normal without sickle cell traits.
“Haemoglobin in the red blood cell is responsible for the transportation of oxygen in the body,” he said.
Alege said that the topic, ‘Sickle Cell Disease’ was carefully chosen because June 19 of every year is celebrated as world Sickle Cell Day, and Nigeria joined the rest of the world to celebrate it on Friday.
According to him, there is presently no cure for sickle cell disease, but the cost effective treatment exists for the pain and other aspects of the disease.
He listed the most important components of the treatment to include early interventions with analgesics, antibiotics, rest, good nutrition, folic acid supplementation and high fluid intake.
“At times, invasive procedures such as blood transfusion and surgery may be needed. Sickle Cell Disease is completely preventable,” he added.
Among the recommendations, he gave, for the prevention are that carriers should not marry AS or SS, education about inheritable nature of the disease.
He stressed the need for public education to determine genotype, so that incompatible people do not fall into love let alone marry each other.
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