Children's Health Featured

Sickle cell disease: The facts

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited disorder that affects red blood cells. In people with the disease, normally round red blood cells are often rigid, sticky and shaped like sickles.

“These cells easily break apart and die, leaving clients anemic due to a chronic shortage of red blood cells,” said Dr. Betty Pace, a pediatric hematologist and oncologist at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. “They can also block small blood vessels, slowing oxygen flow and causing episodes of pain and serious complications.”

In the United States, about 1,000 babies are born with Sickle Cell Disease each year.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:

  • In the United States, most people with SCD are of African ancestry or identify themselves as Black.
  • About 1 in 13 African American babies is born with Sickle Cell Trait SCT.
  • About 1 in every 365 black children is born with SCD.
  • There are also many people with this disease who come from Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern or Asian Indian backgrounds.
  • Approximately 100,000 Americans have SCD.

SCT is a heredity condition but is not the same as SCD. People with SCT are generally healthy. The risk comes down to genetics. According to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America:

  • If one parent has Sickle Cell Anemia and the other is Normal, all of the children will have SCT.
  • If one parent has Sickle Cell Anemia and the other has SCT, there is a 50 percent chance (1 in 2) of having a baby with either SCD or SCT with each pregnancy.
  • When both parents have SCT, they have a 25 percent chance (1 in 4) of having a baby with sickle cell disease with each pregnancy.

The benefits of early detection

“Early diagnosis and comprehensive care of Sickle Cell Disease significantly improves medical outcomes,” Pace said.

SCT and SCD can be detected through a blood test. All children born in Georgia are screened at birth. Early diagnosis and specialized care can prevent death and serious complications from this pediatric blood disorder.

The Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorder Center at CHOG is the only facility in the Augusta region that offers care for children with Sickle Cell Disease.

The Blood Disorders center at Augusta University is a designated state center for the confirmation of children suspected of having Sickle Cell Disease and other hemoglobinopathies.

For more information visit augustahealth.org/chog or call 706-721-KIDS (5437).

Sources: The Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Augusta University Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

About the author

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children's Hospital of Georgia

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the only facility in the area dedicated exclusively to children. It staffs the largest team of pediatric specialists in the region who deliver out- and in- patient care for everything from common childhood illnesses to life-threatening conditions like heart disorders, cancer and neurological diseases.