If you have a sickle cell disease (of which sickle cell anaemia is the most severe) your blood is unable to carry oxygen around your body effectively. This is because your red blood cells are an abnormal shape (sickle or crescent-shaped) instead of disc-shaped – so they can’t bind as much oxygen as a normal cell. This will often leave you feeling tired, short of breath and prone to infections.
Sickle cell diseases are genetic. To be affected, both your parents need to have the sickle cell gene. If you get the gene from one parent, you will be a carrier (also known as sickle cell trait), but you won’t have any symptoms. The diseases are more common in people of African and Mediterranean descent.
Name: Sickle cell disease (SCD)
Cell type: Red blood cells
Frequency: Around 350 babies are born in the UK with SCD each year
UK transplants: 91 in 2016 (for all types of anaemia)
Risk: Inherited from your parents
Treatment: Blood transfusions and, rarely, stem cell transplants (in severe cases)
Other info: Pregnant women are routinely offered screening to see if they are a carrier
A stem cell transplant would only be considered if you have severe sickle cell disease or if other treatments have not been successful. This would be an allograft transplant – where your new stem cells are donated from an unrelated donor.
Information published: 17/01/18
Next review due: 17/01/21