ZocdocAnswersCan anybody get sickle cell?

Question

Can anybody get sickle cell?

I thought that it was only something that African American people get, but a coworker said anyone can get it. I'm a white male. Should I get tested for this? What are the symptoms?

Answer

Sickle cell disease is a condition that a person is born with. It is not acquired after birth. It is caused by a mutation in one of the genes that leads to the production of hemoglobin, which is the iron-containing protein found in all red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen to tissues around the body. In sickle cell disease, the hemoglobin protein becomes abnormally shaped, which causes the red blood cells to look like sickles. When this occurs, the cells can become lodged in the small blood vessels throughout the body, causing a variety of unfortunate problems that usually manifest during childhood. This includes strokes, intense pain crises, kidney disease, and bone disease, among others. Sickle cell disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive fashion, in which each parent must carry the sickle cell trait (one abnormal copy of the gene) and pass it along to his/her child. If each parent has one mutated copy of the gene, each of their children will have a 25% chance of inheriting both mutated genes and thus having sickle cell disease. The sickle cell trait is most common in Africa because it confers some protection against malaria, which is abundant in that part of the world. For further information about sickle cell disease, you should seek out the help of your primary care physician.

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

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