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What is Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)?

Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a disorder that affects the red blood cells. In someone who has SCD, their red blood cells are abnormal and look like a C-shaped or a “sickle.”


These sickle cells usually die early, which can cause a constant shortage of red blood cells. When they travel through small blood vessels, they can get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious complications (health problems) such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.

Sickle Cell Facts

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1 out of 400

Number of Black American babies are born with Sickle Cell Anemia each year

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sickle cell trait

Sickle Cell Trait is different from Sickle Cell Anemia. A person with Sickle Cell Trait has normal round blood cells.

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1 in 4 chance

If two people with Sickle Cell Trait have children, there is a one in four chance, with each pregnancy, that a baby will be born with Sickle Cell Anemia.

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special blood testing

A person does not get sick from having Sickle Cell Trait. The only way to find out if you have the trait is by a special blood test.

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Complications with SCD 


Pain is the most common complication of SCD, and the top reason that people with SCD go to the emergency department or hospital. Sickled cells traveling through small blood vessels can get stuck and block blood flow throughout the body, causing pain. 

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With SCD, the red blood cells die early, leading to a condition called anemia. Anemia occurs when there is not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body. 

Organ Damage

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People with SCD are at greater risk than the general population for problems related to the heart, lung, kidney, and other organs because not enough blood and oxygen is reaching the organs.

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