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N.C. Sickle Cell Syndrome Program: Education

What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is a group of related inherited disorders. It is passed from mothers and fathers to their children. Sickle cell disease affects the main protein inside the red blood cells called hemoglobin. Hemoglobin in the red blood cells carries oxygen from the lungs and takes it to every part of the body. The main hemoglobin in the red blood cells of people with sickle cell disease is not normal. Normal red blood cells move easily through the body because they are soft, round and smooth. With sickle cell disease, red blood cells become hard, sticky and shaped like crescents or sickles. The sickle shaped of the red blood cell makes it difficult for them to move through small blood vessels. When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, less blood can reach that part of the body. This blockage prevents red blood cells from transporting oxygen to the body and results in a shortage of red blood cells, or anemia.

What is sickle cell trait?

This occurs when a person inherits one gene for normal hemoglobin from a parent and one gene for sickle hemoglobin from the other parent (AS). Two genes for sickle hemoglobin results in sickle cell disease (SS).

Is there a cure for Sickle Cell Anemia?

There's no cure for sickle cell anemia, but your doctor can help you or your child live with the disorder, and treatments are improving. People with sickle cell anemia may require treatment from specialists at a hospital or follow up with your primary provider.