ZocdocAnswersWhat is sickle-cell?

Question

What is sickle-cell?

I am a 28 year old African American female. I am anemic. Could this develo into sickle-cell?

Answer

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic condition that is common in African Americans. In fact, it is estimated that one in 8 African Americans carry the gene for sickle cell anemia. The disease is recessive, which means that you need to get a copy of the gene from both your parents in order for the disease to develop. The genetic problem in this disease is a mutation in the gene for hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen for the body. Red blood cells that have this abnormal hemoglobin can be altered into the shape of a sickle. This causes the red blood cells to get stuck in small blood vessels. The result of this is destruction of these red blood cells and anemia. The main symptom that people complain about is pain. Since sickle cell anemia is a genetic disease: you have it from birth. Thus, you can not develop sickle cell anemia - you have it or you don't. At your age it is possible that this would go unnoticed for all those years, but that would be very unusual. Thus, you are most likely anemic for a different reason. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. The two of you can discuss the different causes of anemia and decide through various tests which is the cause of yours. If your doctor is concerned, he or she may order a genetic test for the sickle cell gene.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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