Over 70% using herbal medicine to treat sickle cell disease – Research

Over 70% using herbal medicine to treat sickle cells - Research
Herbal medicine

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Many people living with sickle cell disease are using herbal medicine and not opening up to health workers.

Releasing results of the study started in March 2019 to establish the extent of herbal medicine use among patients seeking treatment at the sickle cell clinic of Mulago Hospital, Dr Maria Asiimwe, a researcher at Makerere University School of Medicine says that most of the participants in the study said they started using herbs following television adverts promoting the herbs as more effective than conventional medicine.

Martin Lubega of the Department of Nursing at Makerere University who led the research said they carried out 384 interviews with both people living with the disease and their caretakers and found that 77.6 per cent had at one time used herbal medicine.

61.2 per cent were using them at the time of the survey. Asiimwe says they are now embarking on more studies to establish the safety of the herbs because of the dangers when patients start using them and abandon their prescribed doses.

She, however, noted that if used in right proportions herbal medicine can be effective citing studies done in Nigeria where some herbal medicines are undergoing clinical trials and are proving to be effective.

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To her, with more research, some herbs could be purified and be made available for those that require them.

However, the sickle cell burden remains high in Uganda especially as a 2014 surveillance study by the Ministry of Health shows 13.3 per cent of the population have a trait meaning they can give birth to sicklers if both partners had a trait.

Currently, the prevalence of sickle cell disease is at 1.3 per cent.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a group of blood disorders typically inherited from a person’s parents. The most common type is known as sickle cell anaemia (SCA). It results in an abnormality in the oxygen-carrying protein haemoglobin found in red blood cells. This leads to a rigid, sickle-like shape under certain circumstances.

Normally, your red blood cells are flexible and round, moving easily through your blood vessels. In sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like sickles or crescent moons. These irregularly shaped cells can get stuck in small blood vessels, which can slow or block blood flow and oxygen to parts of the body.

There’s no cure for most people with sickle cell anemia. But treatments can relieve pain and help prevent problems associated with the disease.