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Sickle Cell Trait

What is sickle cell trait?

If your child has sickle cell trait, it means that he or she has 1 sickle gene. If your child inherits 2 sickle cell genes, your child has sickle cell disease.

Normal red blood cells are round like doughnuts. They move easily through the body to deliver oxygen. In sickle cell disease, red blood cells get crescent, or sickle-shaped, instead of round. They also get hard and sticky. When these hard and pointed blood cells go through blood vessels, they clog the flow and break apart. This can cause pain, shortness of breath, and severe anemia.

Having sickle cell trait does not cause symptoms or other problems that occur with sickle cell disease.

How do you get sickle cell trait?

Children inherit sickle cell genes from their parents, just like the genes for eye color, hair color, and other traits. If your child has sickle cell trait, it means he has inherited one sickle gene from one parent. This means that at least one parent also has the sickle gene.

How do I find out if my child has sickle cell trait?

Testing for sickle cell trait is now a part of the newborn screening tests that are done in every state.

A blood test called a hemoglobin electrophoresis is able to tell if a child has sickle cell trait. Other tests may help to confirm the diagnosis.

Why is it important to know about sickle cell trait?

If you discover that your child has sickle cell trait, you and your spouse may want to be tested to see if just one or both of you has the sickle cell gene before having more children. When both parents have a sickle cell gene, there is a 1 in 4 chance that your children will have sickle cell disease.

Having sickle cell trait does not cause problems for your child. However, your child needs to know that he or she is a carrier of this gene when he or she grows up and decides to become a parent.

Written by William Muller, MD.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2006-09-12
Last reviewed: 2006-08-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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