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Sickle cell trait

(SIK-uhl • SELL • TRAYT)

General Condition Information

Other Names

  • Hemoglobin S trait
  • Hemoglobin S trait (carrier)
  • Sickle Cell Carrier

Condition Type

Birth Prevalence

1 in 13 African American babies are born with sickle cell trait in the United States.

Screening Finding

Presence of fetal hemoglobin (F), hemoglobin S (S), and hemoglobin A (A)

What is sickle cell trait

Sickle cell trait is an inherited (genetic) condition that affects some of the hemoglobin in blood. Hemoglobin is a part of your red blood cells, which carry oxygen in your body. In sickle trait, some of the body’s normal hemoglobin is replaced with hemoglobin S, which is also called sickle hemoglobin.

Normal blood cells are round and shaped like doughnuts. Babies with sickle cell trait typically have enough normal hemoglobin to have normal shaped red blood cells, so they do not usually have any signs and symptoms.

However, when individuals with sickle cell trait experience certain extreme conditions (very high altitude, severe dehydration, or very extreme exercise), the sickle hemoglobin inside their cells may turn their blood cells sickle or crescent moon-shaped. When red blood cells become sickle shaped, they have a harder time bringing oxygen to the body, they break down more quickly, and can get stuck in the blood vessels.

Newborn Screening and Follow-Up

Condition Details

Treatment and Management

Most individuals with sickle cell trait will never need treatment. Treatment is only usually needed if an individual starts to have signs or symptoms.

Community-based organizations (CBOs) are local agencies that provide services, education, and support to families affected by sickle cell conditions like sickle cell trait. To find a CBO near you, please visit the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America’s list of member organizations.

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