What Is Sickle Cell Anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is a serious condition in which the red blood cells can become sickle-shaped (that is, shaped like a “C”).
Normal red blood cells are smooth and round like a doughnut without a hole. They move easily through blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Sickle-shaped cells don’t move easily through blood. They’re stiff and sticky and tend to form clumps and get stuck in blood vessels.
The clumps of sickle cells block blood flow in the blood vessels that lead to the limbs and organs. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage.
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited, lifelong condition. People who have sickle cell anemia are born with it. They inherit two copies of the sickle cell gene, one from each parent. 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.
Sickle cell trait is different from sickle cell anemia. People with sickle cell trait don’t have the condition, but they have one of the genes that cause the condition. Like people with sickle cell anemia, people with sickle cell trait can pass the gene on when they have children. To learn more about sickle cell trait, see the section on causes of sickle cell anemia.
Sickle cell anemia affects millions of people worldwide. There are excellent treatments for the symptoms and complications of the condition, but in most cases there’s no cure. (Some researchers believe that bone marrow transplants may offer a cure in a small number of cases.)
Over the past 30 years, doctors have learned a great deal about the condition. They know what causes it, how it affects the body, and how to treat many of the complications. Today, with good health care, many people with the condition live close to normal lives and are in fairly good health much of the time. These people can live into their forties or fifties, or longer.
For more information please look onto www.sicklecellsociety.org
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