From the NNPA Newswire

How prevalent is the sickle cell trait?

Research indicates that as many as 3 million Americans carry the sickle cell trait, primarily impacting African Americans. In fact, nearly 1 in 12 African Americans have the sickle cell trait.

Worldwide, more than 100 million people carry the sickle cell trait. It is most prevalent among sub-Saharan Africans, Hispanics, South Asians, Caucasians from southern Europe, and people from the Middle East.

Are there complications with having the sickle cell trait?

The majority of people who carry the sickle cell trait do not experience complications. However, that is not to say that everyone with the trait remains symptom-free. Though rare, extreme conditions such as severe dehydration, high-intensity physical activity, and low oxygen environments (e.g.: high-altitude locations) can lead to serious health issues or even sudden death for individuals with the sickle cell trait.

How do you know if you have the sickle cell trait?

All it takes is a simple blood test to learn if you have the sickle cell trait. You can talk with your doctor or a health clinic about getting the test.

In the US, all newborns are screened for the sickle cell trait before they leave the hospital. The results are usually available at the child’s one-month appointment. Older children and adults who weren’t tested as newborns should consider getting the test.

Why is it important to know your sickle cell trait status?

Getting screened is extremely important. If you know you have the trait, you will be more likely to take precautions to avoid those extreme conditions I mentioned earlier, like severe dehydration, high-intensity physical activity, and low-oxygen environments (eg, high-altitude locations), which could potentially trigger the onset of symptoms.1

For those considering having children, consulting a genetic counselor, who can help them better understand what it means to be a carrier of the gene and the chances of having a child with SCD or the trait, should be considered.

It is important for everyone, particularly African Americans, to know their status.

Where can you go to learn more?

Speak with your doctor about any concerns related to SCD and the sickle cell trait. There are also great resources out there to learn more: 

Review the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Get Screened to Know Your Sickle Cell Status” to learn more about sickle cell testing.

Contact national and/or local advocacy groups to learn more about genetic screenings that are offered in your area.

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