Local doctor shares importance of sickle cell awareness

Health Watch

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) September is Sickle Cell Awareness Month. The disease impacts millions nationwide.

9 On Your Side spoke with a local doctor who explains why awareness is key.

The State Department of Health and Human Services estimates more than 90,000 cases in North Carolina.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. Experts say anyone can develop sickle cell however, it’s most commonly found in people of African descent.

Those with the blood disorders red blood cells aren’t shaped like they normally should be, a donut shape.

But more so in a what’s called a sickle-shaped or crescent shape causing difficulty passing through small blood vessels.

Those with sickle cell can experience pain in their body and joints, low oxygen levels in the body, and fatigue.

Dr. Beng Fuh with ECU’s Brody School of Medicine has studied this condition for over 20 years. He tells 9 On Your Side it’s vital that people get educated on the condition.

“One, show more compassion to those with Sickle Cell Disease and may have complications. Two, make sure that there are resources both at school, the community, and the hospital are available for individuals. Three, that we as a society are able to integrate these individuals into society so that they can be productive in this society,” said Dr. Beng Fuh, ECU Brody School of Medicine.

He’s working to fight some of the stigmas, myths, and rumors.

“Individuals with sickle cell disease are the most pain resistant people you are going to come across. When you look at the date in the last 30 years there has not been an increase in drug overdoses in people with Sickle Cell Disease which is in contrast to the general population where we are seeing a rather dramatic rise,” said Dr. Fuh.

As our nation continues to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic Dr. Fuh says those with sickle cells have a higher chance of coronavirus complications.

While there is no universal cure for the disease there are methods like gene therapy that works to help treat people with the condition.

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