Sickle Cell: Not Just an African American Disease


Sickle cell disease(SCD) is an inherited red blood cell disorder affecting people of all races, not just African Americans. Although, 8 to 10 percent of African Americans carry sickle cell trait, 1 to 3 million Americans have this disorder.  It is more common in people of African descent, but the sickle cell trait can also affect Hispanics, South Asians, Caucasians from southern Europe, as well as people from Middle Eastern countries.

In sickle cell disease, 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 sickle cell disease, 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.  In order for someone to have sickle cell disease, they must have two genes that causes abnormal hemoglobin, people with sickle cell trait will only have one abnormal gene.