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Heart Disease and Sickle Cell Anemia: Two Common Health Threats Faced by African Americans

She adds that these episodes of pain (called sickle cell crises) can be too severe for some patients to provide only stronger pain relievers, such as opioids. “Part of the sickle cell problem is that patients can’t always get the pain relievers they need,” Munduru says.

People with sickle cell disease are also at risk of stroke. β€œThese strokes can start as early as kindergarten,” Munduru says.

Current treatment options and new research

Approved by Food and Drug Administration In 1997, the drug Hydrea (hydroxyurea) was shown to reduce seizures and painful complications by reducing the number of sickle cells in the body. In 2017, Endari (L-glutamine oral powder) They are becoming available to reduce acute complications of sickle cell anemia.

The only proven treatment for the disease is a bone marrow transplant, which can be complex and risky.

β€œThere are reasons why not everyone has lined up to do this,” Munduru says. β€œFirst of all, you need a bone marrow donor that matches yours, and it is often difficult to find. In addition, transplants are very expensive and it is a very long and cumbersome process.”

Scientists develop and test new treatmentsincluding gene therapies, which hold great promise for managing or treating sickle cell disease.

β€œThis is an exciting time because there are more than 31 agents in clinical trials now for sickle cell disease,” he says Maureen Achebe, MD, a hematologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Many of these treatments have the potential to manage disease the way high blood pressure can be managed. There is a feeling that we can do something really important about the disease.”

The outlook for sickle cell patients has improved dramatically since the 1970s, when life expectancy was under 20. Life expectancy has risen to 42 to 47 years, according to American Society of HematologyDr. Achebe estimates it may be higher – between 58 and 62.

Education, advocacy and access to care

For Munduru, educating people about symptoms, treatments, and ongoing research makes a huge difference in helping those with sickle cell anemia. The sickle cell information center Provides a comprehensive list of organizations dedicated to helping those affected by the disease.

β€œAwareness is growing, but we encourage people who have sickle cell anemia or who know people who have sickle cell anemia to try to advocate in any small or big way they can so that there is more empathy and understanding about the disease,” Munduru says.

Achebe adds that the biggest obstacle is access to care. “Opportunities to get quality care for sickle cell disease vary in different parts of the country,” she says. β€œIn many parts of the United States, a hematologist is difficult to reach if not nonexistent. Efforts to connect primary care physicians with hematologists and other strategies to connect more patients with care should lead to better outcomes.”

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