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Sickle Cell Disease

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What is sickle cell disease (SCD)?

SCD causes your RBCs to be sickle (crescent) shaped. The sickle shape is caused by abnormal hemoglobin in the RBC. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to all tissues in your body. Sickle-shaped RBCs can get stuck inside blood vessels. This can stop or slow blood flow, and prevent oxygen from getting to tissues. When this happens, it is called a sickle cell crisis. SCD also causes RBCs break apart and die faster than healthy RBCs. This causes low red blood cell levels (anemia).

What causes SCD?

SCD is passed from parents to a child. A child is given 2 abnormal genes for hemoglobin, 1 from each parent.

What are the signs and symptoms of SCD?

The following symptoms may come and go, or may happen during a sickle cell crisis:

How is SCD diagnosed and managed?

A blood test will check the shape and number of your RBCs. You may need any of the following treatments:

What can I do to manage pain and care for myself?

What can I do to prevent a sickle cell crisis?

A sickle cell crisis may be caused by illness, changes in temperature, stress, dehydration, or being at high altitudes. Do the following to help prevent a sickle cell crisis:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What do I need to know about family planning and pregnancy?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) or have someone else call if:

When should I seek immediate care?

When should I call my doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Learn more about Sickle Cell Disease

Treatment options

Symptoms and treatments

Further information

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