What Is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that is characterized by the production of abnormal hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues.
Normal hemoglobin cells are smooth and round in shape. They are flexible and able to move within the blood vessels easily. Red blood cells with sickle hemoglobin are stiff, sticky, and take on a crescent shape under certain conditions. When this happens, they do not pass through blood vessels easily which can block the normal blood flow. As a result, the red cells can break apart (hemolysis). This blockage can cause the following symptoms:
- Acute Chest Syndrome
- Other Complications
One in every 500 African Americans is born with some form of sickle cell disease. Sickle cell disease typically affects people of African or Caribbean descent. However, it may also be found in people from the Middle East, India, Latin America, or the Mediterranean.