Sickle cell disease

Condition affecting the red blood cells

HCA UK's experts can help to diagnose and manage a range of blood conditions including sickle cell disease.

About sickle cell disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited condition that affects your red blood cells. If you have sickle cell disease, your body produces abnormally shaped red blood cells, which have a reduced lifespan and can cause vein blockages. This can cause pain, infections and anaemia (where your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to meet its needs).

Need to know

  • Symptoms of sickle cell disease icon plus

    The most common symptoms of sickle cell disease are:
    • feeling tired
    • being short of breath
    • pain caused by sickle cell crises episodes, where the red blood cells get stuck in your veins

    Symptoms of sickle cell disease can develop soon after birth, and the condition mainly affects people who are of African, Caribbean, Middle Eastern, Eastern Mediterranean and Asian origin.

    The condition is caused by faulty genes, and it is possible to pass on the condition to your children, so it’s important to speak to your GP or consultant if you are considering starting a family as severe cases can cause strokes, lung conditions and infections such as flu.

  • Diagnosis icon plus

    Sickle cell disease is most commonly diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after birth, as part of the newborn blood spot test (heel test).

    Your GP or consultant will discuss your symptoms with you and may recommend you for further tests, including blood tests to check the condition of your red blood cells, and to see if you’re a carrier of the faulty gene.
  • Potential treatment options icon plus

    Treatment options for sickle cell disease depend on the extent of your condition and your general health and fitness.

    These may include:
    • drinking plenty of fluids and keeping warm to prevent painful sickle cell crisis episodes
    • blood transfusions (where blood is taken from a donor and transfused to you)
    • taking medicines, including painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce your symptoms
    • stem cell or bone marrow transplants

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This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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