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Sickle cell anemia
Sickle cell anemia (uh-NEE-mee-uh) is a disease affecting many African-Americans. It causes problems with the red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are round and smooth and move through blood vessels easily. Sickle cells are C-shaped and become hard and sticky. They can get stuck in small blood vessels, blocking blood flow. This can cause pain and organ damage. Sickle cells die quickly, but your body cannot make new red blood cells to replace them fast enough. This leads to anemia. People who have sickle cell anemia need constant treatment to prevent severe pain and serious health problems.
Each year, about 1 in 500 African-Americans is born with sickle cell disease, which runs in families. This means that the gene that causes sickle cell anemia is passed down from parents to children. People who have sickle cell disease got the sickle cell gene from both parents. People who have only one sickle cell gene are said to have the sickle cell "trait." They do not have the disease, but they can pass the gene to their children. About 1 in 12 African-Americans has the sickle cell trait.
If you want to have a baby, you and your partner can get a simple blood test to see if you have the sickle cell trait. If you both have the trait, your child will have a 1 in 4 chance of getting sickle cell anemia. If you both have the trait, talk to your doctor about your options. All 50 states test newborn babies for sickle cell anemia as part of their newborn screening programs.
Explore other publications and websites
Pain Assessment and Pain Management in Sickle Cell Disease: A Guidebook for Patients and Their Families (Copyright © Sickle Cell Information Center) — This booklet is a review of pain prevention, home treatment, emergency treatment, and in-patient treatment for sickle cell anemia. The more you know about the causes, treatment, and prevention of pain, the better the chances of an early recovery from a sickle cell crisis. There are different types and different causes of pain. You should work with your health care provider to come up with a pain management plan.
What Is Sickle Cell Anemia? — This online publication describes sickle cell anemia. It discusses the causes, risks, signs, and symptoms of this disease. It also has information on treating sickle cell and reducing its complications.
What Is Sickle Cell Disease? (Copyright © Sickle Cell Disease Association of America) — This publication provides information on the different types of sickle cell disease. It also discusses problems caused by the disease and their treatments.
Connect with other organizations
American Sickle Cell Anemia Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Information Center, NHLBI, NIH, HHS
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc.
Sickle Cell Information Center, The
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.
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