What is SCD?
It is an inherited red blood cell that becomes hard, sticky and looks like the letter C. This shape is called a "sickle". Normal healthy red blood cells are round and move easily through small blood vessels, carrying oxygen to all parts of the body. With SCD, the "sickled" cells die early which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells.
What Causes SCD?
The cause of SCD is genetic, meaning it begins at birth. It is inherited when the baby receives two sickle cell genes; one from each parent. Because of this it is extremely important to know your sickle cell status.
What Does It Mean To Have Sickle Cell Trait?
People with the sickle cell trait inherit one sickle cell gene. Individuals with the sickle cell trait usually do not have any of the symptoms of the disease and live a normal life, but they can pass the disease on to their children.
How SCD is Diagnosised
Through a simple blood test..
Symptoms and Complications
The most common complication is known as an "episode" or "crisis", and the leading reason that people with SCD go to the emergency room or hospital. When "sickled" cells travel through small blood vessels, they can cause pain that can start suddenly, it can be mild to severe, and can last for any length of time.
If, however, both parents have type AS hemoglobin (one normal and one abnormal), there is:
a 25% chance that the child will have sickle cell disease,
a 50% chance that the child will have sickle cell trait, and
a 25% chance that the child will have neither the disease or trait.
These chances are the same for each child.
Are there different types of sickle cell disease?
The three most common forms of the disease in the United States are:
Hemoglobin SS or sickle cell anemia
Hemoglobin SC disease
Hemoglobin sickle beta-thalassemia (a form of “Cooley’s” anemia)
Each of these can cause very painful “crisis” episodes and in severe cases lead to stroke, heart attack and death.
Who gets Sickle Cell?
Sickle cell disease affects people of many nationalities including Italians, Latin Americans, Greeks, Arabs, and Asiatic Indians. However, it disproportionately affects people of African descent. All states now screen all newborns for sickle cell. In the U.S., approximately 1 out of 10-12 African Americans has sickle cell trait, and 1 out of 400-500 African American newborns has the disease. Approximately 1 out of 1,000-1,400 Hispanic newborns has the disease.
How can I be tested?
A simple, painless blood test called the hemoglobin electrophoresis can be done by your doctor or local sickle cell foundation.
When should I be tested?
Get tested now for sickle cell! If you are of child-bearing age, you and your partner should be tested immediately so that you can make informed family planning decisions.
How can I help?
If you do not have sickle cell disease, you can help those who battle this disease by:
donating blood to your local Red Cross. Sickle cell patients often need multiple blood transfusions to alleviate the painful crisis episodes.
being an advocate if your loved one experiences a crisis and enters the hospital. Health care staff may or may not be familiar with sickle cell disease.
supporting local and national efforts to increase awareness about the disease.