Understanding the Facts
To inherit the disease, an individual must receive the gene for sickle hemoglobin from both parents. Individuals who receive one gene for normal hemoglobin from one parent and one gene for sickle hemoglobin from the other parent inherit the sickle cell trait, not the disease, and are carriers.
One in every twelve African Americans has sickle cell trait. There are rarely any clinical problems associated with the trait, but those individuals, as carriers, can pass the sickle gene to their offspring. If two carrier individuals have children, there is a one-in-four chance with each pregnancy of having a child with sickle cell disease.
People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that become hard and pointed instead of soft and round. Sickle cells contain abnormal hemoglobin that causes the cells to have a sickle shape. Sickle-shaped cells do not move easily through blood vessels often clumping and blocking blood flow that leads to the limbs and organs. Blocked blood vessels can cause pain, serious infections, and organ damage.