RICHMOND - It's estimated that as many as 3,000 people have sickle cell disease in Virginia - but a lot of them have no idea.
Lynea Cook was recently in the hospital, but the 25-year-old is doing much better during a visit with Doctor Wally Smith of VCU Medical Center.
Cook was diagnosed at age 4 with sickle cell - an inherited disease changing normal, round red blood cells into crescent moon shapes.
Sickled cells can block blood vessels, causing pain.
"Sometimes my back kills me tremendously," she says. "It just depends on the day but it's more pain than anything."
Doctor Smith explains there are four types of sickle cell.
He's at the reins of a research study at VCU connecting patients with specialists and a drug called hydroxyurea to cut pain.
"Care is possible, saving pain is possible, prolonging life is possible with a little bit of management and a little bit of help."
Doctor Smith is also making a push to sign up more African Americans on the bone marrow registry. Transplants are a treatment option for some.
"It's a big complicated procedure and it's dangerous but if you can get through it, it can be lifesaving."
Doctor Smith says it's critical that sickle cell patients take control of their health.
Cook agrees. She doesn't want anyone to suffer in silence.
"It is an extreme disease and it takes a toll on a lot of people. I know in my life it's taken a toll on me."
One in 375 African Americans has sickle cell disease, but those aren't the only patients being diagnosed.
One out of a 1,000 Hispanics now has sickle cell and there are more and more cases turning up in people of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent.
If you think you may have sickle cell or know someone who does who isn't getting the proper treatment, contact VCU at 1-855-247-9531.
Copyright 2013 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond
301 Arboretum Place, Richmond
Can't find something?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.