What is Sickle Cell Disease?
According to the American Society of Hematology, Approximately 70,000 to 100,000 Americans have sickle cell disease, the most common form of an inherited blood disorder. This disease, which is present in affected individuals at birth, causes the production of abnormal hemoglobin. Normally, the hemoglobin protein, which resides inside red blood cells, attaches to oxygen in the lungs and carries it to all parts of the body. Healthy red blood cells are flexible so that they can move through the smallest blood vessels. In sickle cell disease, the hemoglobin is abnormal, causing the red blood cells to be rigid and shaped like a “C” or sickle, the shape from which the disease takes its name. Sickle cells can get stuck and block blood flow, causing pain and infections. Complications of sickle cell disease occur because the sickled cells block blood flow to specific organs. The worst complications include stroke, acute chest syndrome (a condition that lowers the level of oxygen in the blood), organ damage, other disabilities, and in some cases premature death.