Sickle Cell Disease Information

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited blood disorder that causes anemia, tissue and organ damage, strokes and terrible pain.  Red blood cells carry oxygen to all the parts of the body through a substance called hemoglobin.  Normal red blood cells are soft and round and can squeeze through tiny blood vessels.  People with Sickle Cell Disease have red blood cells that contain mostly hemoglobin S, an abnormal type of hemoglobin.  These red blood cells are stiff, distorted in shape (like a sickle) and sometimes block small blood vessels.  This is what causes the complications of Sickle Cell Disease and why blood transfusions can help.

Over 70,000 Americans have Sickle Cell Disease.  Ninety percent of all Sickle Cell Disease in the United States occurs in people of African descent.  African American and Black donors can provide blood that is a better match for patients who suffer from Sickle Cell Disease.

Pain attacks are the most common problem of those patients with Sickle Cell Disease.  The pain is unpredictable and may require medications administered in the hospital.  People with Sickle Cell Disease can have other problems such as strokes, lung damage, severe anemia and serious infections.

You inherit the abnormal hemoglobin from both parents who may be carriers with Sickle Cell trait or parents who have Sickle Cell Disease. A person with Sickle Cell trait carries on sickle cell hemoglobin producing gene inherited from a parent and one normal hemoglobin gene.  Normal hemoglobin is called type A.  Sickle hemoglobin is called type S.  Sickle Cell trait is the presence of hemoglobin S on the hemoglobin electrophoresis.  The trait alone will not manifest into Sickle Cell Disease.  One of every ten Black/African American has the Sickle Cell trait.  A simple blood test called the hemoglobin electrophoresis can be done by your doctor.  This test will tell if you are a carrier of the Sickle Cell trait or if you have the disease.  You cannot catch it. You are born with the Sickle Cell hemoglobin and its present for life.

One of the main treatments for Sickle Cell Disease is for patients to receive blood transfusions.  People with Sickle Cell Disease often receive regular transfusions.  The problems and complications caused by Sickle Cell Disease may respond positively to medical treatments including blood transfusions, but the disease itself does not go away.

If your blood is not matched for the Sickle Cell program, it is stored until it is needed.  If the blood approaches its expiration date and has not been needed for Sickle Cell patients, it will be used by another patient in need, such as a cancer patient, a trauma victim, or a newborn baby struggling to survive.  The American Red Cross strives to ensure every blood donation helps a patient in need.