52 Years Est. 1971

What Is Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Trait?

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD)

Growth Sickle Disease

Sickle cell disease refers to a group of inherited disorders of the red blood cell, and it is one of the most widespread genetic disorders in the United States.

It is most common among Black or African American individuals in the U.S. However, people with heritage from the following areas may also be affected:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Spanish-Speaking Regions in the Western Hemisphere (South America, the Caribbean, and Central America)
  • The Middle
  • India
  • Mediterranean Countries (Turkey, Greece, and Italy)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around one in every 365 African American babies is born with SCD in the U.S. Furthermore, approximately 300,000 babies are born with SCD each year worldwide.
Hemoglobin SS (Hb SS) is the most common type of sickle cell disease. In this disorder, some of the red blood cells are crescent- or sickle-shaped. These abnormally shaped cells have a shorter lifespan than normal red blood cells, and they have a tendency to get stuck in blood vessels and block the flow of blood to certain parts of the body. If the condition is left untreated, there is a risk of anemia, organ damage, or even death. However, if Hb SS is identified early in life and treated immediately, individuals can lead healthier lives.

Sickle Cell Trait (SCT)

Sickle cell trait is not a mild form of SCD. When a person has SCT, they carry a single gene for SCD and can pass this gene along to their children. People who have SCT usually don’t show any of the symptoms of SCD and can live life normally.
Hemoglobin is found in red blood cells, and it gives blood its color. It delivers oxygen to all parts of the body. Hemoglobin is made from alpha-globin and beta-globin, which are two similar proteins that “stick together.” Both of these proteins must be present and function normally for the hemoglobin to carry out its job in the body.
People who have SCT possess red blood cells with normal hemoglobin and abnormal hemoglobin. Genes are the instructions that control how red blood cells make alpha- and beta-globin proteins. All people have two genes for making beta-globin. They get one beta-globin gene from each parent. SCT occurs when a person inherits a gene for sickle beta-globin from one parent and a gene for normal beta-globin from the other parent. This means the person will not have sickle cell disease but will be a trait “carrier” and can pass it on to their children.

Chances of Having SCT or SCD

If both parents have SCT, each child that they have together has a:
If one parent has SCT and the other parent has another abnormal hemoglobin gene (like hemoglobin C trait or beta thalassemia trait), each of their children has a:
If only one parent has SCT, each of their children has a:
If both parents have SCT, each child that they have together has a:
If one parent has SCT and the other parent has another abnormal hemoglobin gene (like hemoglobin C trait or beta thalassemia trait), each of their children has a:
If only one parent has SCT, each of their children has a:

Sickle Cell Trait and Athletes

Compared to those without SCT, some people who have this condition are more likely to experience heat stroke and muscle breakdown when performing intense physical activities such as competitive sports or military training under extreme temperatures or conditions.
Some studies show that you can reduce the chance of this problem occurring by avoiding dehydration and getting too hot during training. People with SCT who participate in competitive or team sports (i.e., student-athletes) should be careful when training or doing conditioning activities.
People Training

What to Do to Prevent Illness:

  • Set your own pace and gradually increase the intensity.
  • Take the time to rest in between repetitive sets and drills.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after training and conditioning activities.
  • Mist the body with water or go to an air-conditioned area during breaks or rest periods.
  • Seek medical care immediately when you feel ill.
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