Posts Tagged ‘sickle cell disease’

What is sickle cell disease?

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Sickle cell disease (also called SCD) is an inherited condition that affects a person’s red blood cells. Inherited means it’s passed from parent to child through genes. A person with SCD has red blood cells shaped like a sickle. A sickle is a farm tool shaped like the letter C.

Healthy red blood cells are round and flexible. They can move easily through the body’s blood vessels. When a person has SCD, the red blood cells get stuck and clog the blood flow. These blockages cause pain, infections and sometimes organ damage and strokes. SCD also may cause anemia. Anemia is when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body.

SCD or sickle cell trait

SCD happens when a person inherits a gene change for sickle cell from both parents. If you inherit the gene change from just one parent, you have sickle cell trait. Even though this means you don’t have SCD, you can still pass the sickle cell trait to your children.

If you and your partner both have sickle cell trait, there’s a:

  • 3-in-4 chance (75 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD
  • 1-in-2 chance (50 percent) that your baby will have sickle cell trait
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby will have SCD
  • 1-in-4 chance (25 percent) that your baby won’t have SCD or sickle cell trait

Find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait

You can find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. You are more likely to have them if:

  • You’re black or Hispanic or if your family’s ancestors are from Africa, the Caribbean, Greece, India, Italy, Malta, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey or South or Central America.
  • Members of your family have SCD or sickle cell trait. To help you find out, take your family health history. This is a record of any health conditions that run in your or your partner’s family.

You and your partner can get tested to find out if you have SCD or sickle cell trait. There are two tests, and both are safe during pregnancy. One is a blood test, and the other is a swab inside your mouth. This means your health care provider rubs a cotton swab against the inside of your cheek to get some cells.

How can you find out if your baby has SCD or sickle cell trait?

If you or your partner has SCD or sickle cell trait, ask your provider about having a prenatal test, like amniocentesis or chorionic villus sampling (also called CVS) to find out if your baby has either condition.

All babies are tested for SCD after birth as part of the newborn screening tests. This allows babies who have SCD to be identified quickly and treated early. Because children with SCD are at an increased risk of infection and other health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

More information

World Sickle Cell Day

Friday, June 19th, 2015

mom and newbornSickle cell disease (also called SCD) is an inherited condition that affects the red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the rest of your body. In a healthy person, red blood cells are round and flexible. They flow easily through the body’s blood vessels. However, a person with SCD has red blood cells that are shaped like a sickle (the letter C). These sickle-shaped cells are stiff and can stick to the walls of blood vessels. These sticky cells can cause a blockage that slows or stops blood flow which causes pain, infections and, sometimes, organ damage and strokes.

Sickle cell disease (SCD) affects millions of people throughout the world and is particularly common among people whose ancestors came from Africa, the Caribbean, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, Greece, and Italy. In the U.S., the exact number of people living with SCD is unknown. However, it is estimated that SCD affects 90,000 to 100,000 Americans.

Cause and diagnosis of SCD

SCD is inherited. This means it’s passed from parent to child through genes. To have SCD, you have to inherit a gene change for sickle cell from both parents. If you inherit the gene change from just one parent, you have sickle cell trait. This means that you have the gene change for SCD, but you don’t have SCD. When this happens, you’re called a carrier. A carrier has the gene change but doesn’t have the condition. Sickle cell trait cannot become SCD.

In the United States, testing for SCD is part of newborn screening. This allows babies who have SCD to be identified quickly and treated early. Because children with SCD are at an increased risk of infection and other health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are important.

Complications and treatment of SCD

The complications of SCD are different for each individual. Some children with SCD may be healthy but others may have problems. Pain episodes are one of the most common complications of SCD. They happen when sickle cells block blood flow. Pain can occur in organs and joints and it can last a few hours, a few days or even for weeks. Most children with SCD are pain free between these episodes, but adolescents and adults may have ongoing pain.

Although the body is always making new red blood cells to replace old ones, sickle cells do not live nearly as long as normal red blood cells. So the body has difficulty replacing red blood cells fast enough. A person with SCD doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of his body. This is called anemia. Treatment depends on your child’s symptoms and may include antibiotics and blood transfusions.

Poor oxygen delivery over a lifetime can also result in damage to organs, such as the spleen, brain, lungs, and eyes.

A few children with SCD have been cured through stem cell transplant. However this is not an option for all people with SCD. In general, treatment options vary and depend on the specific symptoms.

Early diagnosis and regular medical care to prevent complications is very important. If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, you can talk to your health care provider about blood tests to determine if you and your partner are carriers for SCD.

Questions?  Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Blood disorders chat: Can I pass this on to my child?

Monday, October 15th, 2012

althea-grantDid you know that millions of people carry genes for various blood disorders? Many of these people will live normal, healthy lives without serious complications. However, some may experience some complications under certain conditions.  Many people are unaware of their carrier status or family health history. With all the misinformation out there about blood disorders, it’s easy to get confused.

Please join us for an online chat about blood disorders, the importance of carrier status, family health history, pregnancy, and newborn screening. Dr. Althea Grant will be answering your questions and debunking myths and misconceptions about carrier issues related to:

Bleeding and clotting disorders
•             Hemophilia
•             Blood clots
•             Von Willebrand disease

Hemoglobinopathies
•             Sickle cell disease
•             Thalassemia

Meet us on Twitter and join the conversation “Removing the Knowledge Barriers When it Comes to Information on Carriers” on Thursday, Oct 18th at 1 PM EDT. Be sure to use #pregnancychat to follow the chat and ask questions.  

Dr. Althea Grant is the Acting Director of the Division of Blood Disorders, National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Dr. Grant has been recognized for her contributions to developing public health programs and resources for sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait.