What Should I Know About Sickle Cell Disease?
The term sickle cell disease (SCD) describes a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. People with SCD have abnormal hemoglobin, called hemoglobin S or sickle hemoglobin, in their red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are round, and they move through small blood vessels to carry oxygen to all parts of the body. In someone who has SCD, the red blood cells become hard and sticky and look like a C-shaped farm tool called a “sickle”. The sickle cells die early, which causes a constant shortage of red blood cells. Also, when they travel through small blood vessels, they may get stuck and clog the blood flow. This can cause pain and other serious problems such as infection, acute chest syndrome and stroke.
People who have SCD inherit two abnormal hemoglobin genes, one from each parent. In all forms of SCD, at least one of the two abnormal genes causes a person’s body to make hemoglobin S. When a person has two hemoglobin S genes, Hemoglobin SS, the disease is called sickle cell anemia. This is the most common and often most severe kind of SCD.
In the United States, most people with sickle cell disease (SCD) are of African ancestry or identify themselves as black.
There are also many people with this disease who come from Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern, or Asian Indian backgrounds.
Approximately 100,000 Americans have SCD.
How do I find out if I have Sickle Cell Disease?
SCD is diagnosed with a simple blood test. It most often is found at birth during routine newborn screening tests at the hospital. In addition, SCD can be diagnosed before birth. Because children with SCD are at an increased risk of infection and other health problems, early diagnosis and treatment are important.
How can I get tested?
You can order your own blood tests right now. We offer the Sickle Cell Anemia profile. Simply choose the Sickle Cell Anemia profile, pay for it and our board-certified physician will authorize you to have the test performed. After you order the test, you will receive a laboratory requisition in your email that you can bring with you to more than 50 convenient Health Network Laboratory locations where your blood will be drawn for testing.
When your results are ready, we will let you know. Your test results are secure, confidential and available to only you. You can choose if you want to share your results with anyone else, including your doctor. Please note, we do not accept insurance at this time.
Content source: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)| National Institute of Health (NIH)