Having sickle cell trait doesn’t mean that you have sickle cell disease. In order to have sickle cell disease, a person must inherit two sickle cell genes, one from each parent. A person who inherits the sickle cell gene from only one parent is called a trait carrier. A trait carrier is healthy, but can pass the sickle gene to their children. Some people who carry the sickle cell trait don’t even know they have it. Most people with sickle cell trait will not have any symptoms or complications.
However, there are a few, rare health problems that may be related to sickle cell trait. One example is pain when traveling at high altitudes or engaging in strenuous exercise. Trait carriers or people living with sickle cell should speak with their doctor before starting an exercise program.
In the image below, each parent has one normal hemoglobin gene and one sickle cell hemoglobin gene. This means each of their children has:
Each time this couple has a child, the chances of that child having sickle cell disease remain the same. In other words, if their first child is born with sickle cell disease, there is still a 25% chance that their second child will also have sickle cell disease.
If a person wants to know if they carry a gene for sickle cell, a doctor can order a blood test to find out.
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