What is Sickle cell Disorder?

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What is Sickle Cell?

Sickle Cell Disorder (SCD) is the name for a group of inherited blood disorder that affect the shape of red blood cells. It is the most common genetic blood disorder in the UK. 


Sickle Cell is not contagious, people are born with this condition as it is only inherited from both parents who will pass on the gene. People with Sickle Cell produce unusually shaped red blood cells caused by abnormal haemoglobin. 

Haemoglobin is a substance that carries oxygen in red blood cells. Normal red blood cells are round, and they move through the body to deliver oxygen. Sickle red blood cells become hard, sticky and cause blockages in small blood vessels. 

Symptoms

Sickle Cell is a serious and long-term condition. Main symptoms include anaemia, increase risk of infections and severe episodes of pain, lasting weeks called Sickle Cell crisis due to restricted blood flow and blockages.

Individuals are at risk of further complications including:

  • Stroke
  • Delayed growth
  • Acute chest syndrome
  • Blindness
  • Bone damage 
  • Priapism (persistent and painful erection)

Long term complications may also include damage to heart, liver, spleen, kidneys and lungs. 

Sickle Cell Trait

Sickle cell trait is also inherited by one of your parents who has passed on the sickle cell gene. Most people who have the trait or are carriers are healthy, although some sickle red cells may be present in certain conditions.

However, it is important to get a blood test to see if you have this. It is also a good idea to inform your dentist or doctor if you have sickle cell trait to rule out any problems with treatments you may have.

Family Planning and Screening

Did you know?

  • If your partner does not have the trait but you do, then any children you have will not have Sickle Cell disorder but may have 50% chance of having the trait.
  • If both partners have the trait, then there is a 25% chance that your child may have Sickle Cell disorder and 50% chance of having the trait.

If you and your partner are considering starting a family, then you may wish to seek further specialist, advice and information.


Screening is the process by which a quick and simple blood sample is taken. Blood tests can also be carried out at any age to check for the disorder or to see if you're a carrier of the sickle cell gene. You can your local GP or local centre if you would like to know your HB status.

Keeping Safe and Well

Living with Sickle Cell disorder will affect people in many different ways but should not stop individuals in being active to achieve and fulfil their social and economic potential. It is important to keep well and safe and know limits, treatments and coping strategies especially when trying to prevent and manage a pain crisis.

Facts

  1. Sickle Cell is not contagious
  2. SCD is inherited by both parents
  3. Children with SCD are at increased risk of having a stroke
  4. The City of Birmingham has the 2nd highest prevalence of children, young people and adults affected by this disorder
  5. Every year, 1 in 300 new born babies have Sickle Cell.
  6. Experiencing pain is known as Sickle Cell crisis
  7. SCD mostly affects people from African, Carribean and Middle Eastern Backgrounds.

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