How is sickle cell disease (SCD) diagnosed?

A blood test can show if you have SCD or sickle cell trait.

Zambia recently launched a newborns screening program at ADH and UTH for early diagnosis and starting the treatment at an early age which can lessen the complications that comes with SCD as well as improving the quality of life for these babies.

It important that people who are planning to marry or married and planning to have children should go to the nearest hospital to know their Sickle cell status.

Treatment for sickle cell disease (SCD) in Zambia

The only cure for SCD is bone marrow or stem cell transplantation. For the transplant to work, the bone marrow must be a close match. Usually, the best donor is a brother or sister. In Zambia only a few families are able to afford this treatment. It’s not locally available meaning Zambians seeking this treatment need to go abroad in countries like India.

There are treatments that can help relieve symptoms, lessen complications, and prolong life which may include:

  1. Antibiotics such as penicillin which prevent bacterial infections in younger children less than the age of 5 according to Zambian SCD national guidelines.
  2. Analgesics such as paracetamol, ibuprofen, Diclofenac and in severe cases morphine is given. These are used to help SCD patients during their pain crises
  3. Hydroxyurea, a medicine that has been shown to reduce or prevent several SCD complications. It increases the amount of fetal haemoglobin in the blood hence reducing the anaemic state by increasing the amount of haemoglobin in the body. This drug though very important for SCD patients most parents can’t afford to consistently buy this drug which is not stocked on most government institutions.
  4. Vaccinations to prevent infections which one them is the pneumococcal vaccine (PCV)
  5. Blood transfusions is given to most patients when they have severe anaemia or when the patient comes with serious complications, such as a stroke, acute chest syndrome etc

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