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Sickle Cell Trait


What is sickle cell trait?

Sickle cell trait is different than sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease is an inherited disease that causes abnormal red blood cells. If a child inherits a sickle cell gene from each parent, the child has 2 genes and will have sickle cell anemia.

If a baby inherits just 1 sickle cell gene, the baby will have sickle cell trait. Having sickle cell trait usually does not cause symptoms or other problems that occur with sickle cell disease.

How do you get sickle cell trait?

Children inherit sickle cell genes from their parents, just like the genes for eye color, hair color, and other traits. Sickle cell trait means that at least one parent also has at least one sickle gene.

How do I find out if my child has sickle cell trait?

Testing for sickle cell trait is now a part of the newborn screening tests that are done in every state.

A blood test called a hemoglobin electrophoresis is able to tell if a child has sickle cell trait. Other tests may help to confirm the diagnosis.

Why is it important to know about sickle cell trait?

If you discover that your child has sickle cell trait, you and your spouse may want to be tested to see if just one or both of you has the sickle cell gene before having more children. When both parents have a sickle cell gene, there is a 1 in 4 chance that your children will have sickle cell disease.

Your child needs to know that he or she is a carrier of this gene when he or she grows up and decides to become a parent. However, having sickle cell trait usually does not cause problems for your child. Sickle cell trait is not a barrier to exercise or participation in sports.


Written by William Muller, MD.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2010-02-18
Last reviewed: 2009-10-26

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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