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Home > Resources > PAF Publications > PAF Guides & Major Publications > A Healthier African Am Community > Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Anemia
Sickle cell anemia is a disease passed down through families. The red blood cells are an abnormal crescent shape instead of being normally shaped like a disc. The crescent shaped red blood cells have difficulty passing through small blood vessels. When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, less blood can reach that part of the body. Tissue that does not
receive a normal blood flow eventually becomes damaged. This is what causes the complications of sickle cell disease. Blocked blood vessels and damaged organs can cause sudden painful episodes or crises.

Sickle cell disease affects approximately one out of every 500 African Americans. Although sickle cell disease is present at birth, symptoms usually don't occur until after 4 months of age. Sickle cell anemia may become life threatening. There is currently no universal cure for sickle cell disease.

Signs and Symptoms:
  • Attacks of Stomach Pain
  • Bone Pain
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Delayed Growth
  • Fever
  • Jaundice (yellow color to the skin)
  • Paleness
  • Fast Heart Rate
  • Frequent Infections
  • Leg Sores

Some people with the disease experience minor, brief, and infrequent episodes. Others experience severe, long lasting, and frequent episodes resulting in many complications.

Risk Factors:
Sickle cell anemia can only result when two carriers
with the sickle cell trait have a child together. A person with sickle cell trait inherits some of the genes of sickle cell disease, but does not
develop symptoms. People with sickle cell trait rarely have symptoms due to the condition because they also have some normal red blood cells. However, they can pass the sickle cell trait to their children. Genetic counseling Is recommended
for all carriers of the sickle cell trait before they have children. In the United States sickle cell anemia most commonly affects African Americans and Hispanics. About 1 in 12 African Americans has sickle cell trait.

Prevention/Best Defense:
Taking steps to stay healthy is critical for anyone with sickle cell anemia. Staying healthy prevents crises and the complications of sickle cell disease.
  • Eat healthy
  • Get enough rest
  • Protect yourself from infections
  • Infants and children need regular childhood shots and doctor visits
  • Moderate physical activity
  • Regular checkups with your doctor
  • Treat infections immediately
  • Drink plenty of fluids