Doctors' Notes

Raising Awareness for Sickle Cell Disease

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Welcome to Doctors’ Notes, our newest contribution from Urban Health correspondents (and husband and wife) physicians Dr. Rob and Dr. Karla Robinson.  The dynamic duo will be fielding questions about health, as it relates to African Americans.  Please feel free to send them questions via digitalpitches@ebony.comWe promise to keep it anonymous. 


Affecting millions worldwide, sickle cell disease is an illness affecting the shape and function of the red blood cell. As a result, having sickle cell disease can often mean life-long complications ranging from recurrent pain episodes to chronic low blood counts to strokes. September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. So let’s honor those affected by sickle cell disease by increasing our awareness about this illness.

Here are the top five things you should know about sickle cell disease:

1)      Sickle cell is genetic. You can’t “catch” or “develop” sickle cell disease. It is a disease that you are born with if both of your parents have the gene for the sickle cell trait. If both parents carry the gene, there is a 1 in 4 chance that their child will be born with the disease. Approximately 1 in 12 Blacks carry this gene. Know YOUR status!

2)      There is a test for sickle cell. In fact ALL newborns born in this country are screened for sickle cell disease and/or the trait for the disease. This is important information to know as 1 in 500 children born in the Black community have the disease. If you don’t know your childhood results of this screening test, ask your current provider to run a simple blood test for you.

3)      In extreme circumstances, sickle cell trait can cause symptoms. Normally not considered harmful, sickle cell trait can lead to complications at times. Kidney disease, excessive clotting, chronic pain, and other severe complications can occur when exposed to intense physical activity, high temperatures, heat exposure, extreme altitudes, and dehydration. This becomes particularly important for athletes.

4)      There is a cure for sickle cell disease. Not often performed in part due to the very small numbers of participants on the donor list, bone marrow transplants have been proven to cure sickle cell disease in those affected by it. Unfortunately, Blacks make up less than 10 percent of the donor registry list, limiting those with access to a potential cure. It’s easy to sign up to do your part and join the marrow registry list, and potentially save a life.

5)      There’s an app for that! Well not quite, but there is a social media challenge that has ignited a firestorm. All month long, the #boldlipsforsicklecell campaign has women posting selfies in their boldest lip color in an effort to increase awareness for sickle cell disease and to raise funds. To join in, simply take a pic in your hottest, boldest lipstick, post with the hashtag #boldlipsforsicklecell, and make a donation to your local sickle cell disease agency.


It’s a health thing…we’ve got to understand!

About the Doctors: Dr. Karla and Dr. Rob are the founders of Urban Housecall, a multimedia health and wellness resource, and also hosts of the Urban Housecall Radio Show.  For more from the doctors, visit their website at, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter @urbanhousecall!