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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 health.

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 Trait?

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 problems?

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 generally harmless.sickle cell map

Can Sickle Cell Trait develop into Sickle Cell Disorder?

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 Cell Disorder?

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 trait: When only one of the parents has a haemoglobin trait:
both parents one parent

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 trait
  • a 50 percent chance for a child with sickle cell trait
  • a 25 percent chance for a child with sickle cell  Anaemia

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 disorder?