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Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle Cell Anemia is the most common hereditary blood disorder. It produces deformed, hardened red blood cells that carry less oxygen and cannot move easily through the circulatory system, resulting in pain and organ damage. The spleen will often attack and destroy the misshapen cells faster than they can be replaced. Affected people are chronically anemic and prone to infections.

People with Sickle Cell Anemia experience episodes of sickle cell "crisis" lasting several days. Crises are characterized by acute pain in the arms or legs, chest, abdomen, or joints. Factors that can precipitate a crisis include physical strain, dehydration, high altitude, and illness.

There is no cure, but transfusions can ease crisis. The severity of the disease is reduced in children who receive a pneumococcal vaccine between age 2 and 5.

Sickle Cell Anemia is most prevalent in people of African descent, though it also is also found in the Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Latino populations. An estimated 1 in 11 African Americans is a carrier. Carriers are said to have a sickle cell "trait" and may suffer from mild anemia.