Sickle Cell Disease | Causes & Risk Factors


How do people get sickle cell disease?

Sickle cell disease is a genetic, inherited (also called hereditary) disorder, which means it runs in families. It is caused by a mutation in the gene that tells the body to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the molecule in red blood cells that allows the red blood cells to carry oxygen. To get sickle cell disease, a child must inherit the mutated hemoglobin gene from both parents.

A child who inherits 1 normal gene from a parent and 1 mutated gene from the other is a "carrier." A person who is a carrier won’t have sickle cell disease, but may still pass the mutated gene on to his or her children.

Who gets sickle cell disease?

In the United States, sickle cell disease is most common in blacks and Latinos. This includes people who came from or whose ancestors came from Africa, Central America (especially Panama), South America, Caribbean nations, Mediterranean countries, India, or Near Eastern countries.


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Written by editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 01/11
Created: 09/90