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Genetic Blood Disorders

Understanding Genetic Blood Disorders

Sickle cell is a genetic blood disorder that impacts the shape of the red blood cells. Typically, in a healthy person, red blood cells are round and flexible. In patients suffering with sickle cell, the red blood cells will be shaped like a crescent moon, or a sickle shape. This means that the blood cells do not flow through the tiny blood vessels as easily, and often become snagged and caught in small blood vessels. It also means that these blood cells are typically much more fragile than normal red blood cells. Sickle cells are more prone to tearing, breaking, and dying young, often after only 15-20 days in the body.

Understanding where these genetic blood disorders come from is imperative to understanding sickle cell. Like any genetic blood disorder, sickle cell trait and disease is passed along through the mother and father. Genes determine what we are made of. Certain genes will decide if we have blue or brown eyes, are tall or short, or if we will have genetic disorders or diseases. If both the mother and the father have the sickle cell disease, then there is a 100% chance the child will also carry the disease. If one parent has the sickle cell disease, but the other parent does not have the disease or the gene (trait), then there is only a 50% chance the child will have the trait, and a 0% chance the child will have the disease. Lastly, if both parents simply possess the sickle cell gene (trait), but not the disease itself, then there is a 50% chance the child will have the gene, and an equal 25% chance the child will not have the gene, or a 25% chance the child will have the disease. Understanding these factors and talking with your doctor can help understand sickle cell disease and the key factors genetics play.