All you need to know about Sickle Cell Trait
So you have just learned that you, or someone you know, has
sickle cell trait.
Many things must be going through your mind. What does it mean?
Does it make me different from other people? Is it dangerous?
Having sickle cell trait simply means that your red blood cells
contain a different type of haemoglobin (a component of the red
blood cell) in addition to the common type.
Having this trait does not make you any more different from
other people. You are taller or shorter than some people you know.
The shape of your nose and ear is different; in other words, you
are an individual!
Apart from some minor exceptions that we will explain, sickle
cell trait is not harmful to one's physical or emotional
In fact, you would have never found out about your sickle cell
trait, unless you had this special blood test. Now let us talk in
some more detail about the trait.
What is Sickle Cell Trait?
As we said earlier, sickle cell trait means having a different
haemoglobin in addition to the most common type of haemoglobin.
Haemoglobin is the component of our red blood cells that gives our
blood its red colour, and carries oxygen from the lungs to all
other parts of the body.
Most people have only haemoglobin A. In contrast, people with
sickle cell trait have both haemoglobin A and haemoglobin S.
Haemoglobin S is very similar to haemoglobin A except for one
change in its structure. There are many other types of haemoglobin
that are also different from the common type. Examples include
haemoglobin C, D, E and O.
How does one get Sickle Cell Trait?
Haemoglobin types are inherited like eye and hair colour.
Individuals with sickle cell trait have inherited the trait from
one of their parents.
Is it true that only Black People have Sickle Cell
No it is not. Sickle cell trait occurs in about one out of ten
black people. This trait is also found amongst
Greeks, Sicilians, Turks, Syrians, East Indians, Italians, Saudi
Arabians and others.
Sickle cell trait originated thousands of years ago in areas of
the world that had malaria. Interestingly, people with sickle cell
trait were more resistant to malaria and were better able to adapt
to their environment.
Certain genetic conditions are more likely to occur in some
populations than in others. For example, 'Thalassemia' is a blood
condition that is found in every race but is more common in Asian
and Mediterranean populations.
Does Sickle Cell Trait lead to any health
Sickle cell trait rarely causes any medical problems.Two
exceptions should be mentioned, although they are uncommon. An
individual with sickle cell trait may experience a painful episode
when exposed to low oxygen pressures.
This may happen, for example at high altitudes, deep sea diving
or during a general anaesthetic when you may need oxygen.
Another exception involves the kidney. Individuals with sickle
cell trait may occasionally have haematuria, which means
microscopic amounts of blood in the urine. This condition is
Can Sickle Cell Trait develop into Sickle Cell
No! Sickle cell trait is not an illness. Individuals with sickle
cell trait will never develop the illness.
On the other hand, persons with sickle cell trait will never
outgrow the trait.
If I have Sickle Cell Trait can my child have Sickle
The genetic makeup of your child comes equally from you and your
partner. Just like hair and eye colour, your child will inherit his
or her haemoglobin pattern from both of you. That is why both you
and your partner should
be tested. If your partner does not have a haemoglobin trait,
then none of your children will have sickle cell disease. With each
pregnancy, you will
have a 50% chance of having a child with sickle cell trait just
like you. If your partner also has a haemoglobin trait, then the
possible outcomes with each pregnancy depend on the specific trait
he or she has.
When both parents have a haemoglobin
When only one of the parents has a haemoglobin
If your partner has sickle cell trait, there are three possible
pregnancy outcomes. These are;
- a 25 percent chance for a child without any haemoglobin
- a 50 percent chance for a child with sickle cell trait
- a 25 percent chance for a child with sickle cell
So it is advisable that both you and your partner are tested to
find out if there is a chance of having a baby with sickle cell