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Health Information For Parents
Sickle cell disease is a condition in which red blood cells are not shaped as they should be. Red blood cells look like round discs. But in sickle cell disease, they’re shaped like sickles, or crescent moons, instead.
These sickle shaped cells get stuck together and block small blood vessels. This stops blood from moving as it should, which can lead to pain and organ damage.
People with sickle cell disease can have pain crises. In a pain crisis:
People with sickle cell disease often have a low number of red blood cells, or anemia. Signs of anemia include:
People with sickle cell anemia may have jaundice (skin and whites of the eyes look yellow). This happens because the sickle-shaped red blood cells break down faster than normal cells.
People with sickle cell disease can have problems that need immediate care by a doctor, such as:
, infection, and blockages of small blood vessels of the lung. Signs include chest pain, coughing, trouble breathing, and fever.
) is the first sign of sickle cell anemia in some infants.
traps the abnormal red blood cells and gets very large. This can lead to a serious, quick drop in the number of red blood cells in the bloodstream. Signs include paleness, weakness or extreme tiredness, an enlarged spleen, and belly pain.
People with sickle cell disease are also at risk for problems such as leg ulcers, bone or joint damage, gallstones, kidney damage, eye damage, and delayed growth.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic condition. People who have it inherited certain hemoglobin genes from their parents. Hemoglobin is the protein inside of red blood cells that carries oxygen. Abnormal hemoglobin makes the red blood cells sickle shaped.
sickle cell trait
rather than sickle cell disease. Most people with sickle cell trait don’t have symptoms, but can pass the gene to their children.
Sickle cell disease usually is found at birth with a blood test during routine newborn screening tests. A second blood test (called a hemoglobin electrophoresis) will confirm the diagnosis.
Sickle cell disease also might be diagnosed before a baby is born with a test on the amniotic fluid or with a sample of tissue from the placenta.
Stem cell transplant (also called bone marrow transplant) is the only known cure for sickle cell disease. Transplants are complex and risky, and for now are an option only for some patients.
Scientists are studying gene therapy for sickle cell anemia. One day, it’s hoped that doctors can stop the disease by changing or replacing the abnormal gene that causes it.
But even without a cure, kids with sickle cell disease can lead fairly normal lives if they follow their treatment plan.
The treatment plan might involve:
Get emergency medical care right away if your child has any of these problems:
To help your child manage sickle cell disease:
What teachers should know about sickle cell disease, and how to help students with sickle cell disease succeed in school.
Sickle cell disease is a disease of the blood. Red blood cells are shaped like sickles, and can get stuck, especially inside smaller blood vessels.
Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that makes red blood cells change shape and cause health problems. Find out more in this article for teens.
At a certain point, you’ll no longer be able to see your childhood doctor. Here are tips for teens on making a smooth switch to adult sickle cell care.
Sickle cell crisis is when sickled cells clog small blood vessels, causing extreme pain and other symptoms. Learn more, including how to help prevent a crisis and what to do if one does happen.
Anemia happens when there aren’t enough healthy red blood cells in the body. It can be caused by many things, including dietary problems, medical treatments, and inherited conditions.
Find out what the experts have to say.
Here are the basics about the life-sustaining fluid called blood.
About 5 million people a year get blood transfusions in the United States. This article explains why people need them and who donates the blood used.
A hemoglobin electrophoresis can help diagnose diseases involving abnormal hemoglobin production, and often is performed as part of newborn screening tests.
Anemia is common in teens because they undergo rapid growth spurts, when the body needs more nutrients like iron. Learn about anemia, how to lower your risk of getting it, and how it’s treated.
Genetic counselors work with people who are either planning to have a baby or are pregnant to determine whether they carry the genes for certain inherited disorders. Find out more.
Advances in genetic testing have improved doctors’ ability to diagnose and treat certain illnesses.
What does it mean when a kid has anemia? Learn about anemia, why kids get it, and how it’s treated in our article for kids.
People with sickle cell disease need good friends who understand and can help them get through tough times. This article for teens helps you learn what you can do to be that friend.
Beta thalassemia is a blood disorder in which the body has a problem producing beta globin, a component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout the body.
Stem cells can develop into cells with different skills, so they’re useful in treating diseases like cancer.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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