Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder. It changes the red blood cells into a crescent or sickle shape. The red blood cells stick together and then get trapped in small blood vessels. When the blood vessels are blocked, parts of the body do not get oxygen. This can cause severe pain and damage to organs and tissues.
These abnormal red blood cells are also destroyed at a high rate. This causes anemia.
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Sickle cell disease is caused by genes. People with sickle cell disease receive a defective gene from each parent. When people have only one of the defective genes, it is called sickle cell trait. They will not usually have symptoms but can pass the gene on to their children.
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Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Marcin Chwistek, MD Last Updated: 3/3/2021