World Sickle Cell Day is June 19: What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle cell disease is one of the most serious, and common, inherited blood disorders.  It occurs when a child inherits two sickle cell genes—one from each parent. It is mostly found in people of African, Hispanic, Mediterranean and Middle Eastern descent and affects about 100,000 Americans. It is diagnosed with a simple blood test, most often at birth during routine newborn screening tests in the hospital, but it can also be diagnosed before birth through genetic testing.

The syndrome causes normal, oval-shaped red blood cells to lose oxygen and collapse into sickle shapes. These cells can get stuck in veins, causing pain, anemia, fatigue, respiratory distress, infection, stroke and eventually organ failure and early death is possible.

People with sickle cell start to have signs of the disease during the first year of life, usually around five months of age. Symptoms and complications are different for each person and can range from mild to severe. Treatment options are also different for each person depending on the symptoms, but with early diagnosis the condition can be managed with less pain and increased life expectancy.

World Sickle Cell Day is June 19.

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