Sickle cell is an inherited genetic condition
Having sickle cell trait doesn’t mean that you have sickle cell disease. People with sickle cell trait have inherited a sickle cell gene from one parent and a normal gene from the other parent. In order to have sickle cell disease, a person must inherit two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. A person who inherits the sickle cell gene from only one parent is called a trait carrier. A trait carrier is healthy, but can pass the sickle gene to their children. Some people who carry the sickle cell trait don’t even know they have it. Most people with sickle cell trait will not have any symptoms or complications and will not know they have sickle cell trait unless they are tested for it. In order to have sickle cell disease, a person must inherit two sickle cell genes, one from each parent.
What health problems might occur in people with sickle cell trait?
Most people with sickle cell trait do not have any health problems caused by the trait. However, there are a few, rare health problems that may be related to sickle cell trait. One example is pain when traveling to or exercising at high altitudes. People with sickle cell trait should tell their doctor when something like this happens or if they notice blood in their urine or get an eye injury even if it doesn’t seem that bad. People with sickle cell trait should drink plenty of water during exercise. All people with sickle cell trait should be careful when doing strenuous exercise. Before starting an exercise program talk with your doctor.
Inheriting the genes for Sickle Cell Disease and Sickle Cell Trait
In the image below, each parent has one normal hemoglobin gene and one sickle cell hemoglobin gene. This means each of their children has:
- A 25% chance of inheriting two normal hemoglobin genes, and not having sickle cell trait or disease
- A 50% chance of inheriting one normal hemoglobin gene and one sickle cell hemoglobin gene, and carrying the sickle cell trait
- A 25% chance of inheriting two sickle cell hemoglobin genes, and having sickle cell disease
Each time this couple has a child, the chances of that child having sickle cell disease remain the same. In other words, if their first child is born with sickle cell disease, there is still a 25% chance that their second child will also have sickle cell disease.
If a person wants to know if they carry a gene for sickle cell, a doctor can order a blood test to find out.