Top of the page
Sickle cell trait occurs when a person inherits a sickle cell gene from just one parent. It's not the same as sickle cell disease, in which a person inherits two sickle cell genes, one from each parent.
People with sickle cell disease have just one kind of hemoglobin (hemoglobin S), which turns their normal, round red blood cells into abnormally curved (sickle) shapes. But people with sickle cell trait have both normal hemoglobin (hemoglobin A) and hemoglobin S, so they rarely have symptoms of sickle cell disease. But they are carriers and can pass the sickle cell gene to their children.
A simple blood test can show whether you have sickle cell trait. During pregnancy, a woman can have a test to find out if the baby will have either sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait. In Canada, infants at high risk for sickle cell disease may be screened before they go home from the hospital. Some college athletic programs screen student athletes to find out if they have sickle cell trait.
People with sickle cell trait rarely have symptoms. Testing positive for sickle cell trait doesn't mean that you need to have treatment or make changes in your activities.
But in rare cases, a person with sickle cell trait may have muscle pain or other serious health problems. These problems can happen under certain extreme conditions, such as intense exercise, overheating, or being at a high altitude.
If you exercise intensely or are a competitive athlete, you can take precautions to help prevent complications:footnote 1
Work with your doctor and coaches to create a plan to prevent complications. Know what to do if you have problems.
Women who have sickle cell trait can have a healthy pregnancy.
If you or your partner has sickle cell trait, you may want to talk with a genetic counsellor before getting pregnant. A genetic counsellor can help you learn more about your chances of having a child with sickle cell disease.
A person with sickle cell trait has a 1-in-2 (50%) chance of passing the sickle cell trait gene to each of his or her children. If both parents have sickle cell trait, each of their children will have a 1-in-4 (25%) chance of having sickle cell disease.
CitationsNational Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (2002). The Management of Sickle Cell Disease (NIH Publication No. 02-2117). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/blood/sickle/.Other Works ConsultedNational Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (2002). The Management of Sickle Cell Disease (NIH Publication No. 02-2117). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/blood/sickle/.
Current as of: November 8, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineDonald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineMartin Steinberg MD - Hematology
Current as of: November 8, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Donald Sproule MDCM, CCFP - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Martin Steinberg MD - Hematology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2020 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.