Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder in which some red blood cells, due to a single mistake in the gene that codes for hemoglobin, change from their soft, pliable shape to sticky, crescent-shaped (sickled) cells. These cells cause blockages in blood vessels and prevent oxygen from being distributed to various tissues and organs throughout the body, leading to tissue damage, organ failure, anemia and severe pain.
Sickle cell disease is a lifelong disease and can occur in any race or ethnic group. The most severe types are much more common in people of African descent and affect approximately one in 350 African-Americans.
In the United States, most sickle cell anemia cases occur among African-Americans and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry. About one out of every 350 African-Americans and one out of every 1,000 - 1,500 Hispanics inherit sickle cell disease.
The disease is inherited – not contagious. To develop it, a child must inherit two sickle cell genes - one from each parent.
No. Carriers of a single sickle cell gene are said to have the sickle cell trait. Usually, they are healthy and very seldom have problems. They cannot later develop sickle cell disease.
There is no cure at this time. There are, however, a number of new methods for reducing the severity and frequency of sickle cell crises.
Pregnancy has an adverse effect on sickle cell disease. Maternal mortality (death rates) in patients with sickle cell disease is about two percent. Patients may also develop severe anemia and are at high risk for urinary tract infections, which is thought to be one of the causes of premature labor.