A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
The only way to get sickle cell disease is to inherit two defective genes that cause sickle cell diseases. However, the following factors make a baby more likely to be born with sickle cell disease:
Children who receive one abnormal gene from each of their parents will have sickle cell disease. Children who receive one abnormal gene and one normal gene usually have no symptoms and are said to have sickle cell trait. They can pass their abnormal gene on to their own children, which, if combined with a sickle cell gene from the other parent, will cause a child to have sickle cell disease.
The majority of people with sickle cell disease are of sub-Saharan African descent. Other people at risk for sickle cell disease are those whose ancestors came from South America, Cuba, Central America, Saudi Arabia, India, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
Sickle cell disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 6, 2013. Accessed July 1, 2013.
Sickle cell disease. Nemours' KidsHealth.org website. Available at:
http://kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/sickle_cell_anemia.html. Updated September 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
Sickle cell disease (SCD). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/index.html. Updated September 27, 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
What is sickle cell anemia?
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
website. Available at:
Updated September 28, 2012. Accessed July 1, 2013.
Last reviewed May 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
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