Frequently Asked Questions About Sickle Cell
What is sickle cell disease?
Sickle cell disease is an inherited disorder that affects red blood cells. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that become hard and pointed instead of soft and round. Sickle cells cause anemia, pain and many other problems.
How is the disease diagnosed?
Sickle cell disease is diagnosed with a simple blood test. It most often is found at birth during routine newborn screening tests at the hospital. In addition, sickle cell disease can be diagnosed before birth.
What is sickle cell trait?
If you have sickle cell trait, you have inherited the gene for sickle cell disease. Sickle cell trait does not turn into sickle cell disease. If someone has sickle cell trait and his partner has sickle cell trait they may produce a child with sickle cell disease. There are about 2.5 million people in America with sickle cell trait.
If sickle cell trait is not an illness, why are people tested?
Babies are tested to see if they have sickle cell disease. Teens and adults are tested mainly to see if they can have a baby with the disease.
What medical problems are caused by sickle cell disease?
Lung tissue damage, pain episodes and stroke. The blockage of blood flow caused by sickled cells also causes damage to most organs including the spleen, kidneys and liver.
How many people have sickle cell disease?
Sickle cell disease is a global health problem. In the United States it is estimated that over 80,000 people have sickle cell disease. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year in America.
What are the complications of sickle cell disease?
People with sickle cell disease start to have signs of the disease during the first year of life, usually around 5 months of age. Symptoms and complications of sickle cell disease are different for each person and can range from mild to severe. Pain is the most common complication of the disease and the top reason that people with sickle cell go to the emergency room or hospital. When sickle cells travel through small blood vessels, they can get stuck and clog the blood flow. This causes pain that can start suddenly, be mild to severe, and can last for any length of time.
How long does a person with sickle cell disease live?
The average life expectancy in America has improved. Patients now live into their late 40s and 50s with ongoing care.
Are people of African descent the only group affected?
No. It is also present in Portuguese, Spanish, French Corsicans, Sardinians, Sicilians, mainland Italians, Greeks, Turks and Cypriots. Sickle cell disease also appears in Middle Eastern countries and Asia.
Is there a cure?
There is no universal cure for sickle cell disease; however, with appropriate care individuals can live productive and healthy lives.