House Call: Sickle Cell Disease – Signs, Symptoms & Risk Factors

In the Triad area, between 400 and 600 people have some form of sickle cell disease, and in the general population, one in 20 individuals carry the sickle cell trait.

Sickle Cell Disease is an inherited disorder of the red blood cells. Instead of having normal red blood cells, the cells are distorted and die early, causing blockages in circulation and a constant shortage of red blood cells.

More: Sickle Cell Info Sheet

Individuals can either be carriers of the sickle cell trait, in which they inherit one normal hemoglobin gene and one gene for sickle hemoglobin, or have sickle cell disease, which occurs when a person inherits two genes for sickle hemoglobin.

Carriers of the sickle cell trait are asymptomatic; however individuals with sickle cell disease often experience severe pain crises in various parts of the body depending on where the blockages occur.

Other symptoms and health problems caused by the disease include infections, anemia, organ damage, complications during pregnancy, fatigue, hand-foot syndrome, jaundice, acute chest syndrome, leg ulcers and sudden stroke.

Those at higher risk for inheriting sickle cell disease include African Americans, Latinos and people with ancestry from Greece, Western Asia or India. It is strongly encouraged for people in a high risk group for sickle cell disease to get screened for the condition at birth.

A test known as a hemoglobinopathy panel is used to determine if an individual has sickle cell disease or if they are a carrier of the trait.  Our community is fortunate, as Cone Health is opening the second comprehensive sickle cell medical center in the nation this spring, dedicated to providing exceptional care for sickle cell disease patients throughout the area.

Spokesperson Background:

Dr. Eric Dean is the medical director of the Cone Health Sickle Cell Medical Center.  Dr. Dean is a 1979 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.  He specializes in internal medicine, completing his residency at North Carolina Memorial Hospital.