Sickle Cell Disease What Is Sickle Cell Disease?
Sickle cell disease is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders that affect hemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen through the body. The condition affects more than 100,000 people in the United States and 20 million people worldwide.
Normally, red blood cells are disc-shaped and flexible enough to move easily through the blood vessels. If you have sickle cell disease, your red blood cells are crescent- or “sickle”-shaped. These cells do not bend or move easily and can block blood flow to the rest of your body.
The blocked blood flow through the body can lead to serious problems, including stroke, eye problems, infections, and episodes of pain called pain crises.
Sickle cell disease is a lifelong illness. A blood and bone marrow transplant is currently the only cure for sickle cell disease, but there are effective treatments that can reduce symptoms and prolong life. Your healthcare team will work with you on a treatment plan to reduce your symptoms and manage the condition. The NHLBI is leading and supporting research and clinical trials to find a cure for sickle cell disease.