Understanding Sickle Cell

Published On 07/17/2012
  • Sickle Cell inheritance patternMemphis has the second highest population of adult sickle cell patients in the nation.

  • People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that become hard and pointed and take on a sickle shape. Because sickle-shaped cells do not move easily through blood vessels, they often clump and block blood flow to the limbs and organs. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, organ damage, and stroke.

  • Sickle cell disease is not contagious; it is an inherited disorder that affects red blood cells.

  • To inherit the disease, a person must receive the sickle cell gene from both parents. People who inherit a sickle cell gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent have a condition called “sickle cell trait.”

  • One in every twelve African Americans has sickle cell trait. They rarely have any problems associated with the disease, but can pass the sickle gene to their children. If two people with sickle cell trait have children, there is a one-in-four chance of having a child with sickle cell disease.

  • Sickle cell is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States and affects millions of people worldwide.

  • 80,000 Americans are affected by sickle cell disease, and there are about 2.5 million people in America with sickle cell trait.

  • People of African descent are not the only group affected. This disease is also present in Portuguese, Spanish, French Corsicans, Sardinians, Sicilians, mainland Italians, Greeks, Turks and Cypriots and appears in Middle Eastern countries and Asia.

  • Sickle cell disease is diagnosed with a simple blood test. It’s most often found at birth during routine newborn screening tests, but can be diagnosed before birth.

  • There is no cure for sickle cell disease, but pharmaceutical advances and a better understanding and management of the disease have increased life expectancies of sickle cell patients. Patients now live into their 40s and 50s with ongoing care.

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