What is sickle cell anemia?
Sickle cell anemia is an inherited blood disorder. Sickle cell anemia is caused by changes in the gene that helps make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to different parts of the body. People with sickle cell anemia have abnormal hemoglobin, causing their red blood cells to be shaped abnormally, sometimes looking like a sickle, or crescent-moon shape. These abnormal red blood cells don't flow as easily through the blood vessels, causing the flow of blood to slow or stop. This means that oxygenated blood doesn't get to different tissues in the body as well, leading to symptoms such as pain and organ damage. Additionally, because the blood cells are abnormal and become damaged over time, they are broken down more quickly than normal blood cells. This leads to anemia (low red blood cell counts), which can cause fatigue, or low levels of energy.