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What is Sickle Cell?

A sickle cell and a normal blood cell

What is Sickle Cell?

Sickle cell is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders where hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen, is abnormal and causes the red blood cell to change from a round shape to C-shape referred to as a "sickle". These sickle cells are hard, sticky and die early, causing a constant shortage of red blood cells. They can also get stuck in blood vessels and block blood flow, which may cause pain and serious complications such as infection and stroke.

What causes Sickle Cell?

It is a genetic condition that is passed down from parents who have an abnormal gene.

How is it diagnosed?

It is normally discovered during routine newborn screening tests in the hospital. It can also be diagnosed with tests during pregnancy such as chorionic villus sampling and amniocentesis.

What are the different types of Sickle Cell?

There are different types of sickle cell based on the number and type of abnormal hemoglobin genes.

What are the symptoms?

The two most common symptoms are pain and tiredness.


  • Can occur anywhere in the body
  • Can be triggered by cold, stress or dehydration
  • There are some other symptoms that you may experience. See a full list of symptoms.

What problems can Sickle Cell cause?

Sickle cell disease has an impact on different organs in your body. You can learn more about each organ system below:

What can I do about it?

Sickle cell is a lifelong condition. Learning all you can about the disease is the best first step! These preventative guidelines can help you avoid problems and stay active.


  • Stay hydrated
  • Avoid getting too hot or too cold
  • Try to avoid situations with low oxygen levels (high altitude locations, mountain climbing, intense physical activity)

If you have sickle cell disease you should have all recommended vaccinations including the pneumococcal, flu, coronavirus, and meningococcal vaccines.

If you receive frequent blood transfusions make sure your doctor follows you closely, there is risk of iron overload with multiple transfusions, which can cause severe organ damage.

What are some specific treatments for Sickle Cell?

There are some recommended medications and supplements for sickle cell disease.

Controlling pain is important to keeping a active and happy lifestyle.

Is there a cure for Sickle Cell?

Bone marrow transplantation is the only cure for sickle cell disease. It is a complex and risky procedure that is only an option for some patients.

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