Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is a genetic red blood cell disorder. It changes normal, round red blood cells into cells shaped like crescent moons. Sickled cells can get stuck in blood vessels and block them, which stops oxygen from getting through. That can cause a lot of pain and can harm organs, muscles, and bones.

How does it affect your body?

Normal red blood cells move easily through blood vessels, taking oxygen to every part of your body. People who have sickle cell disease have mostly sickled red blood cells. These cells can get stuck and block blood flow through a blood vessel. That means red blood cells and oxygen can't flow to some parts of the body.

What causes sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is inherited, which means it is passed from parent to child. To get sickle cell disease, a child has to inherit two sickle cell genes—one from each parent. These sickle cell genes are defective hemoglobin S genes.

What are the symptoms?

Painful events (sickle cell crises) in the hands or feet, belly, back, or chest are the most common symptom of sickle cell disease. This pain may last from hours to days. Most people with sickle cell disease are anemic, which can make them feel weak and tired.

How is it diagnosed?

Sickle cell disease is diagnosed when a simple blood test shows abnormal hemoglobin. A sickle cell test looks for sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease.

How is sickle cell disease treated?

Treatment involves getting routine tests to monitor health, managing pain events (sickle cell crises) with medicine, and treating related health problems as they arise. Some people need regular blood transfusions to lower the risk of stroke and to treat anemia and other problems.

Helpful Documents

View and print out these helpful Sickle Cell Disease handouts

Sickle Cell Disease: Aplastic Crisis
Sickle Cell Disease: Pain Management
Sickle Cell Disease: Splenic Sequestration
Sickle Cell Disease: Vision Problems