Sickle cell anemia, also called drepanocytosis, is a blood disorder or hemoglobin disorder that changes the shape of red blood cells. The abnormally shaped red blood cells interfere with the delivery of oxygen to the body’s organs. The misshapen cells can also stick together in small blood vessels and obstruct blood flow.

Sickle cell anemia is the most common form of severe hemoglobin disorder. An inherited disease, that is, passed on by the parents and present at birth, sickle cell anemia is also a chronic disease and is therefore lifelong, even when treated.

Anyone can have sickle cell anemia. However, the disease is more common in people of African, Mediterranean, Caribbean and Middle Eastern descent and from some parts of India and South America.

Other severe forms of hemoglobin disorders

There are other severe forms of hemoglobin disorders. Like sickle cell anemia, these disorders can cause abnormally shaped red blood cells and lead to “pain crises”. Other signs and symptoms can be associated with these disorders. To find out more, go to the Symptoms page.

Other hemoglobin abnormalities

Other hemoglobin abnormalities can also be associated with diseases that require medical follow-up and treatment, such as β-thalassemia major and hemoglobin H disease.