What is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is an inherited blood disorder that causes the red blood cells to become sickle shaped, preventing the cells from circulating to parts of the body. These cell’s short life-span cause a shortage of red blood cells and result in anemia (low hemoglobin level). Sickle Cell Disease occurs in approximately 1 in 500 African-American births, and the trait occurs in approximately 1 in 12 African-Americans. Those with the Sickle Cell Trait can be blood donors, but those who have the disease cannot.
What are common health issues caused by the disease?
The most common complications of SCD are:
- “Pain Episode” or “Crisis”: The clogging of vessels due to lack of blood flow can cause mild to severe pain.
- Infection: Those with SCD are more likely to experience infection.
- Hand-Foot Syndrome: Swelling caused by sickle cells blocking the blood from freely flowing from those areas.
- Eye Disease: SCD can affect the blood vessels in the eyes and lead to long term damage.
- Acute Chest Syndrome (ACS): Blockage of the flow of blood to the lungs can cause ACS, which causes symptoms similar to those of pneumonia.
- Stroke: Sickle cells can clog blood flow to the brain, which can result in a stroke.
Who is affected by this disease?
SCD affects mainly the African-American and Latino communities. It is estimated that 90,000-100,000 Americans are currently affected with the disease. The disease affects millions world-wide, but is particularly common among those whose ancestors originate from Sub-Saharan regions, the Caribbean, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
What causes Sickle Cell Disease?
SCD is inherited in the same way that dictates common physical traits.
- A person with SCD is born with it.
- It is not contagious. A person cannot simply catch SCD.
What is the Sickle Cell Trait?
Sickle Cell Trait (SCT) is the benign carrier state of Sickle Cell Disease. Individuals with the trait do not have any symptoms of the disease, but they can have children with the trait or disease. About 1 out of 12 African-Americans and 1 out of 100 Latinos has the trait. People with Sickle Cell Trait have slightly more hemoglobin A than hemoglobin S. They have enough hemoglobin A to help their red blood cells carry oxygen to the body. People with Sickle Cell Trait do not have Sickle Cell Disease and cannot develop Sickle Cell Disease later in life. However, they can pass the trait to their children.
How is the trait inherited?
SCD is inherited from one’s parents. There is a 50% chance with each pregnancy of having a child who has Sickle Cell Trait if one parent has the trait.
What are common health issues associated with the trait?
- Dehydration: lack of water in the body
- Low Oxygen: caused by strenuous exercise
- High Altitudes: causing a lack of oxygen
Why is it important to know if you have the trait?
Parents that carry the Sickle Cell Trait can have children with the disease. If both parents have the trait there is a 25% chance with each pregnancy of having a child with the SCD.
How is the Sickle Cell Trait is passed on?
Individuals with Sickle Cell Trait have red blood cells that have normal hemoglobin A and abnormal hemoglobin. The abnormal hemoglobin is called hemoglobin S. Individuals with Sickle Cell Trait have slightly more hemoglobin A than hemoglobin S. They do have enough hemoglobin A to help their red blood cells carry oxygen to the body.
When one parent carries the trait
Sickle Cell Trait is inherited from one’s parents, like hair color and eye color. If one parent has Sickle Cell Trait and the other has normal hemoglobin, there is a 50% (1 in 2) chance with each pregnancy of having a child who has the trait.
When both parents carry the trait
Parents who have Sickle Cell Trait can have a child with Sickle Cell Disease. If both parents have the trait there is a 25% (1 in 4) chance with each pregnancy of having a child with the Sickle Cell Disease.
How can I help?
The Blood Connection has an ongoing interest in helping African-Americans with sickle cell anemia or any other debilitating disease. If you are not a donor, please consider becoming one. Schedule regular blood drives at your church, school, professional organization, or civic group. With your help, we can make a difference in patients’ lives. For more information about blood drives or diversifying the blood supply, contact Candace Blassingame at 864.448.4272.
To learn more about how your donations help others in our community, visit our testimonial page and read about Precious Gamble, Larry Eaddy, James Williams and Nannie Pickens.