Recent Blog Articles
Cardiovascular safety from prostate cancer drugs remains uncertain
Rising alcohol use among older adults
Easily distracted? Try meditation
Harvard Health Ad Watch: Can a wearable device reduce stress?
Listening to your hunger cues
Does your child need to bathe every day?
Can flavonoids help fend off forgetfulness?
Can physical or cognitive activity prevent dementia?
Wondering how much your medical care will cost? New rules could help
Long-lasting healthy changes: Doable and worthwhile
Sickle Cell Anemia
What Is It?
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder.
- Chronic destruction of red blood cells, causing severe anemia
- Episodes of intense pain
- Vulnerability to infections
- Organ damage
- In some cases, early death
Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. People with sickle cell anemia inherit a defective type of hemoglobin. When oxygen levels inside a red blood cell get low, the defective hemoglobin forms long rods. These rods stretch the red blood cells into long, abnormal "sickle" shapes. In contrast, normal red blood cells are disc-shaped.
Sickle-shaped red blood cells cannot easily pass through the body's blood vessels. Instead, they clog blood vessels. They block the flow of blood and cut off the oxygen supply to tissues and organs.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.