What is sickle cell disorder?

Sickle cell disorder is a serious condition that people are born with. It affects the red blood cells, which normally carry oxygen around the body. In sickle cell disorder, the red blood cells are shaped differently and can block blood vessels.

Who gets sickle cell disorder?

Sickle cell disorder is most common in people with African or Caribbean backgrounds, but anyone can get it.

What are the symptoms?

There are a few main symptoms of sickle cell disorder:

  • Anaemia – Anaemia is where the haemoglobin in blood is low. Haemoglobin is the substance in red blood cells that transports oxygen around the body. This can lead to feeling tired: This is because the body isn’t getting enough oxygen. In some cases, it can also bring on headaches, a rapid heartbeat, dizziness or fainting.
  • Painful episodes (called crises): These can happen anywhere in the body and can be very severe.
  • Higher risk of infections: Sickle cells can damage the spleen, which helps fight infection.

How common is it?

Sickle cell disorder is the most common genetic condition in England, with around 15,000 people living with it. London has the most people with sickle cell disorder, and South London has the highest number of people living with sickle cell disorder, with over 3,800 people living with the condition.