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What is Sickle Cell Disease?

  • Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder. Normal red blood cells are smooth and flexible discs that look like the letter O, and move easily through your child's blood vessels. In contrast, sickle cells are stiff, sticky and often shaped like the letter C. Sickle cells tend to cluster together and stick to the lining of blood vessels, making it difficult for them to move easily through.

    Sickle cell clusters can create blockages in your child's small blood vessels, stopping the movement of healthy, oxygen-carrying blood. This blockage decreases oxygen delivery to the tissues, which can cause pain, organ dysfunction, and other complications.

    Sickle cell disease primarily affects children of African descent, and Hispanics of Caribbean ancestry. It also occurs in children of Middle-Eastern and Indian descent.

    Sickle Cell Disease Treatment at Dana-Farber/Boston Children's

    Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is an international leader in improving treatment and quality of life for children affected by sickle cell disease. Through our Sickle Cell Disease Program, children with sickle cell disease have access to world-renowned pediatric hematologists, top-rated nursing care, and the latest treatment options, including hydroxyurea and stem cell transplantation.

    Learn more

    Find in-depth information on sickle cell disease on the Dana-Farber/Boston Children's website, including answers to:

    • What is sickle cell disease?
    • How do you diagnose sickle cell disease in children?
    • How do you treat sickle cell disease in children?
    • What is the latest sickle cell disease research?