Blood Disorders

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Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a serious inherited condition in which the body makes an abnormal type of hemoglobin which causes red blood cells to become “c-shaped,” like a sickle. These cells die and are removed from the bloodstream prematurely. In the United States, sickle cell anemia occurs most often in African Americans.

Sickle cell anemia is present at birth but not usually detected in infants until four months of age. The most common symptom are those of anemia and pain. Sudden episodes of pain in the body are called sickle cell crisis, which can be mild to severe and last a few hours up to a few days. Chronic pain can go on for months which is mentally draining and makes it difficult to maintain normal activities. Sites of chronic pain are typically in the bones, lungs, abdomen, and joints.

Researchers now know what causes sickle cell anemia and how it affects the body, as well as how to treat many of the complications, but there is no cure. With good health care, many people with sickle cell anemia live fairly normal, healthy lives and can live into their fifties or beyond.