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Sickle Cell Disease

key information

source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

summary/abstract:

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder. It is marked by flawed hemoglobin. That’s the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues of the body. So, sickle cell disease interferes with the delivery of oxygen to the tissues.

Red blood cells with normal hemoglobin are smooth, disk-shaped, and flexible, like doughnuts without holes. They can move through the blood vessels easily. Cells with sickle cell hemoglobin are stiff and sticky. When they lose their oxygen, they form into the shape of a sickle or crescent, like the letter C. These cells stick together and can’t easily move through the blood vessels. This can block small blood vessels and the movement of healthy, normal oxygen-carrying blood. The blockage can cause pain.

Normal red blood cells can live up to 120 days. But, sickle cells only live for about 10 to 20 days. Also, sickle cells may be destroyed by the spleen because of their shape and stiffness. The spleen helps filter the blood of infections. Sickled cells get stuck in this filter and die. With less healthy red blood cells circulating in the body, you can become chronically anemic. The sickled cells also damage the spleen. This puts you are at greater at risk for infections.

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