How do you get sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is an inherited genetic condition, which means you get it from your mother or father. You get the disease based on your parents hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is the main substance of the red blood cell. It is the protein that carries oxygen around in the red blood cells. Normal red blood cells contain hemoglobin A. People with sickle cell disease have abnormal hemoglobin called hemoglobin S and/or hemoglobin C. Therefore, in order to get sickle cell disease, one parent has to have hemoglobin S and/or C, and the other parent has to have hemoglobin S and/or C. It is this abnormal hemoglobin S or C that causes the red blood cells to have the sickle shape and get stuck in the blood vessels. When sickle-shaped red blood cells get stuck in blood vessels, less blood reaches that part of the body. The part of the body that does not receive normal blood flow can have pain or be damaged. This decrease in blood flow is what causes the complications of sickle cell disease.

It is very important for people with sickle cell disease to be seen by a trained hematologist (blood doctor) in a comprehensive setting. People with sickle cell disease need to be followed very closely for complications in all of their organs. They should have heart exams, kidney exams, eye exams, and transcranial doppler studies (that measure blood flow in the brain) regularly to prevent complications from sickle cell disease.



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