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Sickle cell trait is an inherited blood disorder that affects 1 million to 3 million Americans and 8 to 10 percent of African Americans. Sickle cell trait can also affect Hispanics, South Asians, Caucasians from southern Europe, and people from Middle Eastern countries. More than 100 million people worldwide have sickle cell trait.

People who inherit one sickle cell gene and one normal gene have sickle cell trait (SCT). People with SCT usually do not have any of the symptoms of sickle cell disease (SCD), but they can pass the trait on to their children. Sickle cell trait (SCT) is even more prevalent and occurs in 1-3 million Americans and 8-10 percent African Americans in the United States. There are more than 100 million people across the globe living with SCT.

How Sickle Cell Trait is Inherited:

  • If both parents have SCT, there is a 50% (or 1 in 2) chance that any child of theirs also will have SCT, if the child inherits the sickle cell gene from one of the parents. Such children will not have symptoms of SCD, but they can pass SCT on to their children.

  • If both parents have SCT, there is a 25% (or 1 in 4) chance that any child of theirs will have SCD. There is the same 25% (or 1 in 4) chance that the child will not have SCD or SCT.


Sickle Cell Disease(SCD) is diagnosed with a simple blood test.  All babies are screened for SCD as part of their newborn screening.  Prenatal testing can be done to find out if a baby will have Sickle Cell Disease(SCD), Sickle Cell Trait(SCT), or neither one.


Most people with SCT do not have any symptoms of SCD, although—in rare cases—people with SCT might experience complications of SCD, such as pain crises. In their extreme form, and in rare cases, the following conditions could be harmful for people with SCT:

  • Increased pressure in the atmosphere (which can be experienced, for example, while scuba diving).

  • Low oxygen levels in the air (which can be experienced, for example, when mountain climbing, exercising extremely hard in military boot camp, or training for an athletic competition).

  • Dehydration (for example, when one has too little water in the body).

  • High altitudes (which can be experienced, for example, when flying, mountain climbing, or visiting a city at a high altitude).

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