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What is Sickle Cell Disease?

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is an inherited red blood disorder that affects 1 in 375 African Americans and 100,000 Americans. Healthy red blood cells are round and move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen throughout the body. The red blood cells in someone one who has SCD are C-shaped and become hard and sticky. The sickle shape makes it hard to flow through the blood vessels and prevents oxygen throughout the body. When the sickle cells get stuck in the small blood vessels it clogs the blood flow and creates a pain crisis.

The sickle cells often die early which causes shortage for red blood cells, which causes the need for blood transfusions.


What Causes Sickle Cell Disease?

A child gets sickle cell disease (SCD) when he or she receives two sickle cell genes*—one from each parent. SCD has many faces. The disease affects millions of people worldwide and is especially common among people who come from and whose ancestors come from the following regions highlighted in red:


Is there a cure for Sickle Cell Disease?

SCD can be cured for certain patients. A bone marrow transplant, which involves collecting healthy cells from a donor’s bone marrow and transferring them into a patient, can cure SCD. However, a bone marrow transplant may not be the best choice for all patients because it comes with serious risk. A bone marrow transplant expert can advise patients about whether or not it is a good choice for them.


What are the treatments for SCD?

Blood transfusions are used to treat severe anemia.

A person with SCD can live a long and high quality life.

  • Getting regular checkups with their doctor.
  • Following treatments prescribed by their doctor, such as taking medication called hydroxyurea, Oxbryta, and Endari.
  • Preventing infections by taking simple steps including washing their hands.
  • Practicing healthy habits like drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water per day and eating healthy food.

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© 2008-2021 The Sickle Cell Association of South Louisiana is a not-for-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3). Our mission is to bring hope to families in south Louisiana affected by this devastating disease.

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