A pediatric Oncologist and dermatologist, Dr. Deogratias Munube has encouraged couples intending to marry to seek sickle cell screening first.
According to Mayo Clinic, sickle cell is a genetic disorder that causes red blood cells to have a crescent moon-like shape instead of a typical doughnut-like shaped cell. The cells, also shaped like sickles are usually sticky and have complications moving steadily through blood vessels, causing swellings and severe pain crises to the victim.
According to Dr. Munube, sickle cell usually presents aggressive symptoms in children but can also manifest later in life in adults as people with mild symptoms.
He explained that children below the age of one get painful, tender, and swollen hands and feet after an injury, which tends to persist and re-occur. Other symptoms include lung infections such as pneumonia, bone infections, and anemia.
As stated by Dr.Munube, anemia occurs in sickle cell patients because the red blood cells do not live as long as they have to, leading to low blood levels and yellowing of the eyes.
Dr. Munube, who is currently working with Mulago Referral Hospital, said although the ailment is present in families across the country, there are certain regions where it is more prevalent such as Northern and North Eastern Uganda.
As such, he advised couples intending to marry to undergo sickle cell checkups to make informed decisions in case both or one of the partners has or is a sickle cell carrier.
“I’d advise that it would be good for couples to know their sickle cell status before getting married. It doesn’t matter which tribe you belong to because it is present in all tribes. It is advisable for couples to know their sickle cell status before getting married to make an informed decision.” he said.
Adding; “If the mum and dad are carriers, they have a 25 percent chance of passing on the gene to their children. Some people have been fortunate to give birth to children without the gene while others have all children affected.”
He noted that in Northern and North Eastern Uganda, the sickle cell gene is more prevalent and tends to protect people from severe
“According to the studies, malaria is common in the region, though a few people have severe symptoms and tend to be protected by the sickle cell gene. These are more likely to pass on the disease to the next generation compared to someone infected by malaria who dies.
According to statistics, 80 percent of children born with sickle cell disease do not live beyond their 5th birthday, and many tend to live in excruciating pain. According to the Doctor, lessening the pain will have the child subjected to hospital or homecare.
“Under homecare, we advise parents to keep the child as hydrated as possible because if the body has enough fluid, there will be enough space for the cells to flow,” the doctor said.
In addition, he said parents should ensure a child is in a moderate temperature, has access to enough oxygen, and is vaccinated to prevent them from catching bone and chest infections that are common with sickle cell patients.
However, he revealed that medical laboratories have produced a drug to lessen the pain sickle cell patients go through such as Hydropheria which is now being produced in Uganda to fit the demand.
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