KBTX - Health - Headlines

Medical Myth Debunked Concerning Sickle Cell Anemia

By: Stephanie Palmer Email
By: Stephanie Palmer Email

A family is shocked to learn their baby has a life altering disease that's commonly associated with African-Americans. However, there's a medical myth concerning sickle cell anemia, a blood disease that tends to clog arteries and cause pain attacks.

From all looks 6-month old Wyatt Tackett appears to be a happy and healthy baby. However, his mother received a sign of trouble.

"I first got a letter in the mail saying your child may be affected by a blood disease," said Heather Tackett.

Wyatt has sickle cell anemia. Now, he takes penicillin twice a day and his parent do not want to travel too far away from medical help.

"When we told people that we were carriers of it, the facial expressions were very interesting because most are African-Americans," said Tackett.

KBTX Medical Contributor Dr. Alan Xenakis says that's not the case.

"One of the biggest mistakes, we make about sickle cell anemia is equating it with a race," said Dr. X.

He says it is a genetic trait that's the result of evolution.

"So people who had a sickle gene, were in an area of the world where there's a lot malaria," said Dr. X. "So they could survive that particular pest."

He says most likely the Tacketts have ancestry that goes back to that part of the world.

"It just so happens that the part of the world is in Africa, the Mediterranean or part of the Middle East, where people have dark skin color," said Dr. X.

For people of those backgrounds living in the U.S. the chances of carrying the trait, are 1 in 500. For Black Americans it is 1 in 12. But, there is hope.

"We are not talking about a life or death disease," said Dr. X.

Dr. X says the Sickle Cell Anemia is manageable as long as patients keep their stress levels low, avoid areas of high or low altitude avoid extreme climates, stay hydrated, manage their body's oxygen levels.


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