A new campaign seeks to address a silent killer among African American women

'The Walking Dead' star Jeryl Prescott is sharing her story with theGrio, in hopes of getting others involved.

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Sarcoidosis, a rare and often fatal inflammatory disease, impacts Black women at rates higher than anyone else. According to data, African American women are three times more likely to develop sarcoidosis than white Americans and experience chronic and severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization at rates 10-18 times higher than Whites.

Photo: AdobeStock

While many have long associated sarcoidosis in the Black community with Black men—it claimed the life of legendary comedian Bernie Mac in 2008—African-American women experience hospitalization at rates double that of Black men and have a mortality rate 1.5 times higher.

The Walking Dead actress Jeryl Prescott knows all too well the impact of sarcoidosis on Black women. “I had a very red inflamed eyeball and I ignored that symptom for a very long time,” Prescott told theGrio. A first-time mother, she assumed she was experiencing the fatigue all new moms know. “I was busy working, being a wife, being a mom and I put myself last and thought the redness would go away.”

Photo: Courtesy of Jeryl Prescott

It didn’t—and Prescott later learned the inflammation in her eye was due to sarcoidosis. While there are nine types of sarcoidosis, Black women are more likely to experience the more chronic and severe forms of pulmonary and cardiac sarcoidosis. African American women are also more likely to have multiple organs impacted.

To raise awareness, Prescott has teamed up with the Foundation for Sarcoidosis Research and its “Ignore No More” campaign. “Ignore No More” is one of the first campaigns to reflect the largely unknown yet serious and sometimes fatal inflammatory disease that disproportionately impacts African American women.

In addition to encouraging the Black community to seek more information about the disease, Prescott said “Ignore No More” also holds medical professionals accountable. “Too often, Black women experience less attention from their doctors and their symptoms aren’t believed,” Prescott said. “This campaign sends the message to healthcare providers and researchers that they cannot ignore the needs of African American women any more.”

Prescott said Black women must prioritize themselves and also have necessary conversations with their girlfriends about their health and any symptoms that present themselves.

“If you are a Black woman and don’t have sarcoidosis, you need to know it exists because you probably know someone who does,” she advised. “We have always looked out for each other and now, more than ever, we need to do that concerning this.”

Candice Marie Benbow is theGrio’s daily lifestyle, education and health writer. She’s also the author of Red Lip Theology: For Church Girls Who’ve Considered Tithing to the Beauty Supply Store When Sunday Morning Isn’t Enough. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @candicebenbow.

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