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    Larenz Tate on Sickle Cell Disease

    The actor wants people to know how serious the disease is and why it's important to get screened.
    By
    WebMD Magazine - Feature
    Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD

    September is Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Month, and for actor Larenz Tate, that means spreading the word about a chronic disease that disproportionately affects the African-American community.

    "It's really important to know if you carry the disease," says Tate, 36, who recently costarred on FX's Rescue Me and in BET's made-for-TV movie Gun Hill, which premieres this fall.

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    My parents first knew something was wrong with me when I was 3 months old. I was constantly in pain, constantly crying. They thought I had rheumatic fever or polio. The townspeople would come over and sit by my bed and pray. After seeing local doctors, I was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia when I was 6. It's a disease that makes your red blood cells grow in a crescent shape, which means they can block blood vessels and stop oxygen from getting to the cells. That causes pain and anemia and can...

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    As many as 100,000 people in the United States have the disease, which causes red blood cells to resemble sickles or crescents. The misshapen cells can reduce blood flow, which starves vital organs of oxygen and can lead to chronic fatigue and intense pain.

    Many people who don't have the disease carry a gene for it. Screening is essential, a message Tate will spread this month via Facebook and Twitter (@LarenzTate). "If you can prevent the disease, you can really make a difference in someone's life," says Tate.

    Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD the Magazine."

    Reviewed on July 15, 2012

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