Lesser known genetic diseases that affect ethnic minorities

There are ethnic inequalities in health and especially in genomics studies. In 2009, it was found that only 4 per cent of genomewide association studies participants were people with non-European ancestry.

British medical history fails to represent those of ethnic minorities, resulting in misdiagnoses, and a general unawareness of diseases such as Sickle Cell Disease (SCD).

Raising awareness for these genetic diseases is vital to protecting and caring for those carrying and suffering from these illnesses, and to finding a cure.

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited red blood cell disorder. As a result of abnormal haemoglobin, people with this disease have red blood cells that become hard and sticky and appear to look C-shaped, rather than circular. These deformed cells are called ‘sickle’ cells and clog the blood flow when travelling through small blood vessels.

When they do this, sickle cell patients suffer extreme joint pain. Additionally, people with Sickle Cell Disease are more likely to have a stroke, more at risk of having a life-threating infection and can experience acute chest syndrome.

Although Sickle cell carriers (like myself) can live a normal life, they are at a small risk of developing kidney problems. Those with Sickle Cell Anaemia have shorter life expectancies and the majority are victims to sickle cell crises, extremely severe chronic pain episodes lasting up to a week.

Furthermore, SCD is notably common in people with an African and/or Caribbean family background, with 1 in 10 having the genetic disease. For this reason, SCD is highly under researched in the West. Therefore, as many American and European doctors are not aware of the severity of this disease, Sickle Cell Anaemia patients are left uncared for in hospitals.