Differences Between Sickle Cell Anemia and Sickle Cell Anemia (2023)

People who carry one copy of a genetic variant called hemoglobin S (HbS) have sickle cell traits. It usually does not cause any symptoms. However, if a person inherits two copies of HbS, one from each parent, they have sickle cell disease.

Contrast with sickle cell traitsickle cell anemiait is a blood disorder that requires ongoing medical attention. It occurs because the red blood cells become crescent-shaped or C-shaped instead of round. This affects the ability of blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.

In contrast, sickle cell traitit is benign. Having sickle cell trait simply means that a person carries a specific gene. However, it is important for people to know if they have sickle cell trait, especially if they plan to have children.

Read on to learn more about the differences between sickle cell disease and sickle cell disease.

What is sickle cell trait?

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people withsickle cell traitthey carry a gene known as HbS. This gene affects the way the body makes hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body.

Normally, people inherit two copies of another gene called hemoglobin A (HbA) from their parents. This gene tells the body to make healthy, round blood cells that carry oxygen efficiently.

People with sickle cell disease inherit one copy of HbA and one copy of HbS. HbS tells the body to make hemoglobin in a way that makes red blood cells less effective.

Despite this, people with only one copy of HbStypicalhas no symptoms. Alone, this gene only worksa factionof the blood cells a human produces, which means few are sickle-shaped.

However, in situations that put enormous stress on the body, such as intense exercise or low-oxygen environments, people with sickle cell disease can develop more sickle-shaped red blood cells.

This can cause symptoms similar to those of sickle cell disease or complications such asRhabdomyolysis. In severe cases, strenuous exercise can lead to death.

What is sickle cell anemia?

Sickle cell disease is a disease that a person gets when they inherit two copies of HbS, one from each parent.

Normally, red blood cells are oval in shape with a small depression in the middle. This shape allows them to move smoothly through veins and arteries, effectively delivering oxygen to cells.

However, in sickle cell anemia, the red blood cells become sickle-shaped. This causes them to become trapped in the blood vessels, preventing them from delivering oxygen effectively. It also increases the risk of blood clots and damages red blood cells, meaning they die sooner than they should.

Because all parts of the body need oxygen, sickle cell anemia has along range effectabout health. Possible complications include:

  • infections
  • cardiovascular disease
  • chronic renal failure
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • AVC
  • sickle cell crisis

Can someone have sickle cell signs without anemia?

Yes, by definition, a person with sickle cell disease does not have sickle cell disease.

People with sickle cell disease carry only one copy of HbS, the gene that can affect hemoglobin production. The other gene, HbA, leads to healthy red blood cells. This means that the person does not have any type of sickle cell disease.

People with signs of sickle cellnormallythey have a level of health, quality of life and mortality similar to that of people without the HbS gene.

Symptoms of sickle cell disease vs. Sickle cell anemia

sickle cell traitnormallydoes not cause symptoms. In rare cases, a person may experience symptoms similar to those of sickle cell disease during periods of strenuous exercise.

Symptoms of sickle cell anemiacontain:

  • Pain and swelling in hands and feet.
  • frequent infections
  • chronic pain
  • Shortness of breath, especially during stressful times

Symptoms usually start a few months after birth.

Diagnosis of sickle cell features versus sickle cell anemia

The diagnostic process for sickle cell anemia and sickle cell anemia is usually the same. Doctors use a blood test to check a person's hemoglobin genes.

In the United States, this testIt is part ofnewborn screening, a blood test that doctors do on babies in the first few days of life. Most people with sickle cell disease in the United States are diagnosed after this test.

Treatment of sickle cell disease vs. Sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell trait does notnormallyrequire medical intervention, but sickle cell anemia does. Treatment usually focuses ontwo goals: maintenance of health and treatment of complications.

Health maintenance involves regular monitoring of a person's health. This may include:

  • Vaccines to prevent infections
  • preventative antibiotics
  • Health exams to detect early signs of complications, such as a stroke
  • chronic transfusion therapy, which means a person receives regular blood transfusions

The way doctors treat complications depends on the condition the person develops. May include:

  • Analgesic
  • oxygen therapy
  • Hydroxyurea for frequent or serious complications

One treatment, a type of bone marrow transplant, can cure sickle cell disease. However, not everyone is eligible as it is chemotherapy.riskyfor people with sickle cell disease. You also need a suitable donor.

Learn more about hematopoietic stem cell transplants.

Who is affected by sickle cell anemia?

The genes that cause sickle cell anemia areMore frequentlyin certain populations, including:

  • people of African descent
  • People of Asian, Mediterranean, or Middle Eastern descent
  • Hispanic Americans from Central and South America

In the United States, sickle cell disease is more common in African-Americans. Around1 of 12African Americans have signs of sickle cell disease, while about 1 in 500 African Americans have some form of sickle cell disease.

some scientistshe thinks this may be an evolutionary response to malaria. Malaria is a parasitic infection transmitted by a specific species of mosquito when it bites people. The parasite enters the blood and infects red blood cells.

When a person has one copy of HbS, their immune system clears all sickled cells from their blood, including infected blood cells. This can reduce the severity of malaria symptoms.

Scientists speculate that the sickle cell trait may be an adaptation that helps people survive in areas where malaria is at high risk.

Outlook for sickle cell anemia vs. sickle cell anemia

People with signs of sickle cell have asimilaraverage life expectancy of the rest of the population. sickle cell anemiashortenedthe life expectancy of a person. People with sickle cell disease require ongoing care and may have many symptoms.

Treatment options and approaches are improving, which means that some people with sickle cell disease can live longer lives. There are also promising gene therapies that can cure the disease.

However, this assumes that people have access to quality healthcare.

barriers to treatment

In the United States, the people most likely to have sickle cell disease are also the most likely to have trouble getting the care they need.

A 2020 article onNew England Journal of Medicinehighlights how racism and socioeconomic inequality contribute by reinforcing barriers such as:

  • lack of funds
  • social stigma
  • Difficulty getting pain relievers
  • inconsistent or inappropriate treatment

People struggling to get treatment can get help from advocacy groups likeSickle Cell Disease Foundation. The foundation offers a "Find a Doctor" search tool, free consultations and much more.

Learn more about racism in healthcare.


A person has signs of sickle cell if they have one copy of the HbS gene. sickle cell trait istypicala benign condition, but it means that a person's child is at higher risk of sickle cell disease. It can also cause symptoms in certain situations and increase the risk of certain health complications.

Sickle cell disease is a serious disease that occurs when someone has two copies of HbS. People are usually diagnosed at birth and develop symptoms as babies.

It is important that people with sickle cell disease know they have it so that they can make informed decisions about family planning and recognize circumstances that may trigger symptoms.

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