A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
The only way to get sickle cell disease is to inherit two defective genes that cause sickle cell diseases. However, the following factors make a baby more likely to be born with sickle cell disease:
Children who receive two abnormal genes (one from each of their parents) will have sickle cell disease. Children who receive one abnormal gene and one normal gene usually have no symptoms and are said to have “sickle cell trait.” They can, however, pass their abnormal gene on to their own children, which, if combined with a sickle cell gene from the other parent, will cause a child to have sickle cell disease.
The vast majority of people with sickle cell disease are of sub-Saharan African descent. In the United States, this accounts for about 90% of all sickle cell disease patients. Other people at risk for sickle cell disease are those whose ancestors came from South America, Cuba, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
Cecil Textbook of Medicine . 22nd ed. W.B. Saunders Company; 2003.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ .
Sickle Cell Disease Association of America website. Available at: http://www.sicklecelldisease.org/ .
Weiner CM. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine . 17th ed. New York, NY: McGraw – Hill; 2008.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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