Monday, two weeks ago, was the most trying time for one of my very good friends. Her three weeks old baby girl woke up in the morning with swollen feet and hands. Immediately we took the baby to the nearest children’s hospital and we sought to see a paediatrician.
After a few check ups and some questions on family history, the doctor suspected that the baby was showing early symptoms of being a sickle cell patient or a carrier.
Now this news caught my friend and me off guard completely.
Now it so happens that this friend of mine is a sickle cell carrier and her younger brother passed on five years ago due to sickle cell anaemia. Sickle cell anaemia is a disease in which a body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells.
The cells are shaped like a crescent or sickle. They don't last as long as normal, round red blood cells, which leads to anaemia. The sickle cells also get stuck in blood vessels, blocking blood flow.
This can cause pain and organ damage which can also be fatal.
It is important to note if your family has a history of any major ailments like the sickle cell and cancers so that you can be checked early enough for any tale tell signs, said the doctor.
Knowing one’s family medical history allows a person to take steps to reduce his or her risk of contracting any disease that runs in a family.
Families have many factors in common, including their genes, environment, and lifestyle.
Together, these factors can give clues to medical conditions that may run in a family.
By noticing patterns of disorders among relatives, healthcare professionals can determine whether an individual, other family members, or future generations may be at an increased risk of developing a particular condition
A family history also can provide information about the risk of rarer conditions caused by mutations in a single gene, such as cystic fibrosis and sickle cell anaemia.
For people at an increased risk of certain cancers, healthcare professionals may recommend more frequent screening (such as mammography or colonoscopy) starting at an earlier age.
Healthcare providers may also encourage regular checkups or testing for people with a medical condition that runs in their family.
Additionally, lifestyle changes such as adopting a healthier diet, getting regular exercise, and quitting smoking help many people lower their chances of developing heart disease and other common illnesses.
My family has had a cancer history, an uncle died of liver cirrhosis which is the cancer of the liver, and a cousin also died of breast cancer.
With this information I want to get my family on their toes so that we can all start going for screening because with the kind of lifestyle that we town dwellers are now leading something small might trigger something big.
I am not trying to scare anyone here, but doctors now advise that in case of any ailments in the family, it is better if other family members go for tests and screening just to be sure that there is no time bomb lying somewhere.
A person can be advised accordingly once the doctors have run the tests. In the meantime eating healthy foods and some exercise goes a long way to keep you on your toes in matters of health.