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Sickle Cell Warriors and Vision: Concern Extends Beyond the Solar Eclipse

August 25, 2017 by Andrea


We've all been warned never to stare directly in to the sun -- even during a solar eclipse like the one that just passed over the U.S. a few days ago. Doing so could lead to retina damage and permanent vision loss.

For sickle cell warriors, though, protecting their eyes from the same type of injury is more of a regular concern -- a concern that special glasses cannot prevent. According to the Brazilian Journal of Hematology and Hemotherapy, 42 percent of SCD patients will develop sickle cell retinopathy (a disease of the retina that can cause vision impairment and loss) by the time they reach their 20s. This, like many other sickle cell complications, can be attributed to the retina not receiving the amount of oxygen it needs from the red blood cells.

And while there may not be a guaranteed way to avoid sickle cell retinopathy, early detection can help and introduce patients to certain therapies, such as laser therapy or surgical options, to curb further loss of sight. "Nobody with sickle cell disease should lose vision," Dr. Adrienne Scott, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins's Wilmer Eye Institute told the university's "Rising to the Challenge" campaign writers in a recent interview. "We need to conduct the right studies, the right clinical trials to establish evidence-based guidelines on how we should screen sickle cell patients, what imaging tests can best identify those at risk for vision loss, and how early we should intervene with treatment."

Have you experienced signs of sickle cell retinopathy? Share your story in the comments below.

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