Inherited Blood Disorder

View Pediatric Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia, a form of sickle cell disease, is a common and severe blood disorder. People with sickle cell anemia have inherited hemoglobin S genes from both parents. Instead of healthy, round red blood cells that can move easily throughout the body, individuals with this disorder have sickle-shaped red blood cells that are sticky and tend to clump together. This can create blockages in small blood vessels.

Sickle cells also have a shorter lifespan than healthy red blood cells. They can build up in the bloodstream as they die off instead of being filtered out by the spleen, like typical red blood cells. Fewer healthy red blood cells can cause anemia. This condition can also damage the spleen, which plays a critical role in filtering infections from the blood.

Individuals with two sickle cell genes are born with the disorder, and most begin to show symptoms within a few months of birth. People with one sickle cell gene are healthy but can pass this condition on to their children.

Penn State Health hematologists offer specialized diagnosis and personalized care throughout life. We treat adults with sickle cell disease, including anemia and other complications of blood disorders.

Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

Sickle cell disease is usually diagnosed through genetic screening at birth. Adults with sickle cell anemia are diagnosed thorough a physical examination and review of the patient’s personal and family medical history.

Symptoms can include:

  • Acute chest syndrome - Causes sickle cells to clump together in the lungs’ blood vessels. It can lead to dangerous pneumonia-like symptoms, including violent cough, fever and pain.
  • Anemia - Pale skin, fatigue and weakness.
  • Jaundice - Causes a yellow coloring in the eyes and skin. Jaundice occurs when quickly dying sickle blood cells are not filtered out of the body fast enough. This leads to the buildup of bilirubin, a fluid produced by the liver when red blood cells break down.
  • Sickle cell crisis - A dangerous symptom caused by sickle cells getting stuck in small blood vessels. Blood flow is blocked, creating pain in the arms, legs, chest, fingers or toes.
  • Pooling - Occurs when sickle cells clump together in the spleen and get stuck there. This buildup slows down other red blood cells or prevents them from moving. It can cause a sudden and dangerous drop in hemoglobin, which helps carry oxygen throughout your body.

New approaches to care and treatment have improved the outlook and life span for people with sickle cell anemia.

Cross-Specialty Care for Adults with Sickle Cell Anemia

Penn State Health’s team of hematologists have advanced expertise in treating a range of blood disorders. If you are living with sickle cell anemia or any related conditions and challenges, we know that comprehensive care is important to your overall health.

Our multidisciplinary team works together to develop personalized treatment plans. We can help you manage sickle cell disease and prevent some of the severe complications of sickle cell anemia.

Experts in Care

The hematology experts at Penn State Health are committed to providing you with comprehensive, multispecialty sickle cell anemia care.

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Why Choose Penn State Health for Sickle Cell Anemia Care

Penn State Health hematology specialists and subspecialists provide advanced testing, treatment and management for sickle cell anemia and a full spectrum of bleeding disorders. Following are just a few of the reasons people choose us for exceptional, multispecialty care:

Comprehensive Sickle Cell Anemia Program

Penn State Health’s comprehensive sickle cell anemia program offers diagnosis, treatment and ongoing management for adults. Our expert team cares for nearly 100 affected individuals each year through preventive care and therapy. We treat both ongoing symptoms and acute complications, with the goal of helping you manage life with sickle cell disease. We’re here to provide support and resources to make that happen.

Penn State Health provides specialized testing, treatment and management for numerous blood disorders. We offer access to skilled specialists and multispecialty clinics for all your health care needs.

Our facilities and services include:

  • Individualized acute pain crisis plans
  • Dedicated infusion room with advanced capabilities for the management of acute pain crises
  • Infusion rooms for treatments that include intravenous delivery of crizanlizumab – a monoclonal antibody medication to help manage acute and chronic pain  
  • Diagnostic laboratory testing and imaging services including:
    • Blood typing
    • Hemoglobin electrophoreses
    • Quantitative MRI imaging to measure and evaluate iron overload
  • Multidisciplinary team approach
  • Red blood cell exchange therapy
  • Telehealth visits

Dedicated to Sickle Cell Research

Penn State Health hematologists and other specialists frequently participate in clinical trials to improve care for adults with sickle cell anemia and other blood diseases. For more information on clinical trials at Penn State Health, please visit StudyFinder.

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered