The medical world is incredibly fascinating, with new discoveries being made about popular diseases everyday. While disease in general is universal, there are some health conditions that have been associated with the African American community. Genetics often dictate the way the body will function. As such, many people of color seem to be automatically predisposed to certain conditions. Here are five of the most prevalent health ailments in the black community, and what can be done to treat them.
Sickle Cell Anemia
This blood disorder occurs when the red blood cells in the body take on a "sickle" shape, which prevent them from doing their job normally. These cells typically assume the abnormal shapes in people whose roots trace back to tropical regions. Thus, approximately 1 out of 5000 African Americans is affected.
Because the sickle-shaped cells cannot travel well through the body, they often clump in various areas, causing what is known as an extremely painful sickle-cell "crisis"-which tend to create other hazardous conditions in the body. Traditional treatments often include strong dietary supplements, medications, and pain management.
Fibroid tumors which are found in the uterus, are typically benign. They often cause painful menstruation, bloating, and even urinary problems. However, there are occasions when they become so troublesome that a hysterectomy is required. Though fibroid tumors appear to affect female members of the population from all walks of life, these tumors are typically identified in black women about three times more than women in other ethnic groups.
Though the cause of fibroid tumors is still a bit fuzzy, the approach to treating them has changed drastically over the years. No longer is a complete hysterectomy the first line of defense. Depending upon the size, the tumors can be completely removed with surgery, while leaving other internal organs intact. Radiology is also another treatment option. And in some cases (especially when the tumors are smaller) hormone therapy is prescribed.
While African Americans are not plagued with skin cancer the way other ethnic groups are, their delicate skin make-up dictates that other conditions are prevalent. Keloids are hyperactive scarring reactions to either a cut or scratch. They will typically appear as raised bumps over the incident of injury, and are not painful-but often unsightly. They can also grow in size to become very large. As with other common illnesses, the exact cause is not known. But according to medical research this condition is most widespread in the black community, and tends to run in families. Doctors claim that the best way to prevent keloids from developing is to attend to small injuries right away, especially if stitches are required. Other forms of treatment include surgery, radiation, and even a new therapy which involves pressing the keloid until it thins.
For years, medical professionals have associated hypertension (high blood pressure) with people of color. This is perhaps because the culture is known for its rich soul food (which is frequently highly salted.) In any case, this health condition has become rampant in the African American community. The condition is a big concern as it contributes to the onset of many other chronic illnesses.
As recently as July 2009, research has revealed a few genetic characteristics specific to people of color that makes them more predisposed to "salt sensitivity." Thus, the first line of defense in battling hypertension is an altered diet that has been sodium-reduced. Medication is usually the next option, but one not readily sought out by many African Americans.
Isaac Hayes' death from a stroke in August 2008 came as a shock to the world-especially since he died while doing something that most doctors prescribe for their patients: exercise. In any event, diabetes, hypertension, and strokes are all very closely related ailments that seem to hit the black community much harder than other communities. Ironically, there are studies which prove that while black people are more widely affected by strokes, they are also less likely to die from them than other ethnic groups (Hayes had been a stroke victim prior to his death.)
Strokes are caused when there is a drastic drop in the blood supply to the brain. As a result, the victim often loses control over certain bodily functions typically on one side of the body. Though death is not always the result of a stroke, they can leave permanent damage. They are treated with medications to thin clotting blood, and therapy to help patients with damaged motor skills. While some diseases affecting the black community appear to come from long lines of genetics, diet is typically heavily stressed as a preventative measure.