Who is Affected?
Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition that affects the red blood cells. It is characterized by the red blood cells becoming sickle shaped and stiff. Sickle cells are fragile and break up faster than the body can replace them, causing anemia. Persons with this disease experience periodic pain and other health problems. Sickle cell anemia is the most common type of sickle cell disease. Other types are hemoglobin SC disease, hemoglobin S/beta-plus thalassemia, and hemoglobin S/beta-zero thalassemia.
What is Sickle Cell Disease?
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What Are Pain Episodes?
Research has shown that sickle cell disease is a global health problem. It has been found in Africa, all of the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, several Middle East countries, Canada, all the Caribbean islands, many South American countries, and in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom. More than 60,000 Americans, mostly African-American, have sickle cell disease, with two-thirds having sickle cell anemia. About 1,000 American babies are born with sickle cell disease every year. In America, about one in ten African-Americans and one in two hundred Caucasians have the sickle cell trait. Medical research concluded that sickle cell trait occurred as a natural mutation of the hemoglobin gene. Sickle cell trait serves as a protective mechanism against malaria. Malaria is a deadly disease found in countries along the equator. People with sickle cell trait are protected from malaria while those with sickle cell disease are susceptible to it. Over the years, those with the sickle cell trait migrated to other continents.
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America
St. Petersburg Chapter, Inc.
Quick Facts About Sickle Cell
What is the Sickle Cell Trait?
A simple blood test can tell if you have the sickle cell trait.
Sickle cell disease is inherited.
If both parents have the sickle cell trait,
there is a 25% chance (with each pregnancy)
that the child will have sickle cell disease.
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If a person has the sickle cell trait, he/she has the gene for sickle cell disease. The person does not have a disease and may not have any health problems associated with the sickle cell trait. Over 2.5 million Americans, mostly African-American, have the sickle cell trait. If both parents have the sickle cell trait, their children could have sickle cell disease.
A person who has sickle cell disease can be a victim of what is known as a sickle cell pain episode or crisis. When a large number of sickle cells damage and plug blood vessels, it is difficult or impossible for the blood to circulate normally. This causes severe pain, which may occur in any part of the body.
A pain episode may require immediate medical attention and could be set off by an infection, fatigue, unusual stress, over-exertion, or high altitudes. The periodic obstruction of blood vessels damages many organs and may cause other health problems, such as leg ulcers (resulting from poor circulation), strokes, and decreased resistance to infections.