Handbook of Genetic Counseling/Sickle Cell Anemia

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Sickle Cell Anemia

Introduction[edit | edit source]

  • Determine what the patient already knows about sickle cell
  • Assess what concerns the patient wants to address today

Elicit Medical History[edit | edit source]

Elicit Family History and Pedigree[edit | edit source]

What is sickle cell disease?[edit | edit source]

  • inherited blood disorder affecting the oxygen carrying part of the blood cells called hemoglobin
  • hemoglobin in sickle cell anemia forms a "sickle" or banana shape
    • normal hemoglobin is called hemoglobin A
    • sickle cell hemoglobin is called hemoglobin S
  • this shape causes it to be broken down in the liver leading to not enough blood cells
  • people with sickle cell disease experience pain, damage to organs, and sometimes early death
    • this is due to sickle shaped blood cells blocking tiny blood vessels
    • this leads to prevention of blood flow to certain areas of the body

Diagnosis[edit | edit source]

  • diagnosis is made by a blood test called hemoglobin electrophoresis
    • those with mostly hemoglobin S have sickle cell disease
    • those with only hemoglobin A do not have sickle cell disease
    • those with both hemoglobin A and hemoglobin S are heterozygote carriers and have sickle cell trait
      • this means they are carriers of the sickle cell gene
      • they generally do not have any health problems but can pass the gene to their children
    • this test requires 3cc of blood in a red-capped EDTA tube
    • prenatal testing is also available
    • in Ohio children are now tested for sickle cell as part of the newborn screening program

Symptoms[edit | edit source]

  • chronic hemolytic anemia - may lead to reduction in energy and cause growth retardation
  • Vaso-occlusion - blockage of small blood vessels that may lead to pain and tissue damage.
  • Splenic sequestration - increase in spleen size due to storage of red blood cells
  • Organ failure - may result from insufficient blood flow later in life
  • other problems may arise such as neurological effects, stroke, chronic eye disease, renal disease, and leg ulcers

Treatment[edit | edit source]

  • mainly symptomatic
  • drugs such as hydroxyurea are used to increase fetal hemoglobin
  • vasodilators and lubricants used to prevent microvascular blockage with very little success


Inheritance[edit | edit source]

  • Sickle cell disease is inherited in an autosomal recessive fashion
    • people with sickle cell disease have two copies of the mutated gene
    • people with sickle cell trait have one normal gene and one mutated gene
  • Parents who both have sickle cell trait will have a 25% chance of having a child with sickle cell disease, a 50% chance of having a child with sickle cell trait, and a 25% chance of having a normal child who is not a carrier
  • If one parent has sickle cell disease and one parent has sickle cell trait, they have a 50% chance of having a child with sickle cell disease but the child will have sickle cell trait.
  • If one parent has sickle cell disease and the other parent is normal the child will have sickle cell trait but 0% chance of having sickle cell disease.

Clarification: In order for a child to have sickle cell disease both parents must have at least one copy of the abnormal sickle cell gene, or in other words both parents must have sickle cell trait for the child to have sickle cell disease.

Population Genetics[edit | edit source]

  • African-Americans: 1/12 are carriers
  • 1/400-600 children are born with sickle cell disease
  • People of Hispanic, Greek, Italian, Arabic, and Asian Indian also have high carrier rates

Psychosocial Issues[edit | edit source]

  • Guilt over passing on trait to children
  • people with sickle cell trait may be treated as though they are sick despite having no symptoms
  • people with sickle cell trait may also be more worried about their health despite having no symptoms
  • worry over reproductive decisions

Resources[edit | edit source]

  • CHMC Cincinnati Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center
333 Burnett Avenue
Cincinnati, OH 45229
  • The Ohio Sickle Cell Affected Families Association, Inc.
141 Tishman Street
Columbus, OH 43228


  • National Association for Sickle Cell Disease, Inc.
3345 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 1106
Los Angeles, CA 90010-1880

References[edit | edit source]

  • Headings, Verle E. "Psychosocial Issues in Sickle Cell Counseling" Genetic Counseling: Psychosocial Dimensions. 1979.
  • March of Dimes Public Health Education Information Sheet. Sickle Cell Disease.
  • Koshy, Mabel. "Sickle Cell Disease" University of Chicago
  • Ricknagel, D. "Sickle Cell Syndromes"

Notes[edit | edit source]

The information in this outline was last updated in 2002.

  1. John (10 June 2023). "What is Hemolytic Anemia?". thestackerz.com. Retrieved 10 June 2023.