An inherited blood disorder whereby abnormal hemoglobin within the red blood cells causes the cells to become rigid, sticky, and shaped like a sickle; the sickling shape makes the blood cells fragile, impeding blood flow which over time can cause severe pain, and harm organs, muscles, and bones. People with sickle cell disease often have anemia, caused by a shortage of red blood cells.
Carriers of the sickle cell gene are said to have sickle cell trait. Sickle cell trait occurs when a person has one gene for sickle hemoglobin and one gene for normal hemoglobin. Unlike sickle cell disease, sickle cell trait does not cause medical problems, but the trait can be passed down. Sickle cell disease primarily affects those of African and Hispanic descents, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin American, Native American and Mediterranean heritage.