Sickle cell anemia is a serious condition. It is a genetic condition, meaning children get it from their parents. It is important to know, however, that the sickle cell anemia causes and diagnosis are not down to the parent's behavior before they had a child, but rather down to their own genes. It is not a contagious condition, in other words.
Sickle Cell Anemia Causes and Diagnosis – Genes:
Genes come in sets of two, one that comes from the father, and the other that comes from the mother. If either of those has sickle cell disease, the child may get it as well. This means that someone can be a sickle cell carrier, which is known as having "sickle cell trait". Interestingly, someone with the sickle cell trait may not actually have the disease.
The chances of a child being born with the disease are:
1) 25% that the child will not inherit the disease or the trait, meaning he or she also won't pass it on
2) 50% that the child will inherit only a single gene copy, which means he or she will have sickle cell trait
3) 25% that the child inherits copies from both parents, at which point he or she will be born with it
Unfortunately, this does mean that if you know you have sickle cell disease, or that you have sickle cell trait, you need to think very hard about whether you want to risk having children or not.
Sickle Cell Anemia Causes and Diagnosis – Risk Factors
Those who have an Asian, Eastern Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, or African backgrounds have the greatest risk of having the disease. In fact, it is believed that 10% of these people have sickle cell anemia or sickle cell trait. Luckily, it only requires a simple blood test to determine whether or not you are a carrier. Usually, this test is offered to women both during pregnancy and once they have given birth. However, you can request the test at any time if you believe you have it.
Sickle Cell Anemia Causes and Diagnosis – Symptoms:
Genes are perhaps best described as the blueprint of the body. Each gene plays a role in determining certain characteristics, such as your hair color and eye color. If you have sickle cell anemia, the genes that are responsible for developing hemoglobin, which is part of the red blood cells and carries oxygen to the organs, have a problem. A healthy red blood cell is shaped like a disc and very flexible. In someone with sickle cell anemia, however, they are shaped like a crescent and they are very rigid. Because of this, they also start to clump together. Furthermore, sickle cells don't live as long as a regular blood cell. This is what causes the anemia, because the body is not able to create enough new red blood cells in time.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. You can, however, learn to manage it. As stated earlier, one of the more difficult decisions you may have to make is whether or not to have children yourself.