A person with sickle cell trait carries one sickle hemoglobin-producing gene inherited from their parents and one normal hemoglobin gene. (Genes are made up of DNA molecules, which are the simplest building blocks of heredity. They are grouped together in specific patterns, forming the unique "blueprint" for every physical and biological characteristic of that person.) People with sickle cell trait do not have or contract sickle cell disease. However, if they have a child with another person who has sickle cell trait or other genetic conditions, that child may have sickle cell disease.
You inherit the abnormal hemoglobin from your parents. Often both parents are carriers with sickle cell trait, but they could also have sickle cell disease or other blood conditions. You cannot catch sickle cell, and no one can catch it from you. You are born with the sickle cell hemoglobin and it is present for life. If you have sickle cell trait it means you inherit a sickle gene from one parent, and a normal hemoglobin gene from the other. If you have the disease it means you have sickle hemoglobin, but no normal hemoglobin gene. This can be because you have two sickle genes (one from each parent), or one sickle gene, and another type of abnormal hemoglobin gene.
Many different ethnic and racial groups have sickle cell disease and trait, including African-Americans, Africans, Arabs, Greeks, Italians, Latin Americans, Caucasians and those from India.
A simple blood test called hemoglobin electrophoresis can be done by your doctor or any of the Northwest Sickle Cell Collaborative partners. This test will tell if you are a carrier of the sickle cell trait or if you have the disease. Coming soon: Click here to learn about genetic testing for people with sickle cell trait.
In Washington state, newborn babies are tested for sickle cell trait. Coming Soon: Click here to learn more.
Thanks to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Georgia, Emory University School of Medicine, for providing this information. To learn more, go to www.scinfo.org.