Sickle cell disease (SCD) or sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder that is predominant in sub-Saharan Africa, but also occurs in India and the Arabian peninsula.
SCD decreases the blood’s capacity to deliver oxygen to tissues. The disease is characterized by abnormally shaped red blood cells (RBC), appearing crescent-shaped, elongated, and stiffened. The sickle-shape results from a mutation in the hemoglobin. This change in morphology hinders RCBs to pass through capillaries reducing the RBCs ability to deliver oxygen.
Symptoms include attacks of pain, also called sickle-cell crisis, anemia, and painful swelling in the hands and feet.
SCD is typically diagnosed with the help of blood tests. Complete blood counts can reveal a decreased hemoglobin level and in peripheral blood smears, one can detect the morphological abnormality of RBCs (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Blood smear of a patient with SCD revealing the typical crescent-shaped morphology of RBCs.