A person diagnosed with sickle cell trait is called a carrier and is said to have inherited an abnormal hemoglobin gene. This is not considered as a disease and does not pose any health problems for the carrier directly. However, if both parents of a child are carriers, then they could pass on sickle cell disease to their child, which is a lifelong condition.
While being diagnosed with sickle cell trait does not have any immediate consequences on your health, it is important to find out if you are a carrier as it makes you aware of the risks that your children face. If both parents are carriers, their child has a 25% chance of inheriting sickle cell disease. This happens when the child inherits an abnormal hemoglobin gene from each of the parents. There is a 50% chance that the child may not inherit the disease but may become a carrier like his or her parents. This is due to the child only inheriting one abnormal gene from one of the parents, and a normal gene from the other. It isn’t all bad news though, as there is also a 25% chance that the child will inherit normal hemoglobin genes, and therefore, will neither have the disease nor be a carrier of it.
Symptoms of sickle cell trait
It is extremely rare for carriers to show any symptoms. As mentioned earlier, being a carrier means that you also have the normal hemoglobin gene and therefore your body will have enough normal red blood cells for the circulation of oxygen. But certain complications may arise if the person endures severe physical conditions such as extremely high altitude, issues during a general anesthetic procedure or severe dehydration. Such scenarios make it possible for sickle cells to form. This can be quite harmful as it leads to plugging of blood vessels and it hinders the oxygen delivery from the lungs to the various organs throughout the body. This in turn may lead to unbearable pain being experienced in the muscles, bones or the spleen. Intensive exercise routines can also cause the above symptoms as such exercise can lead to dehydration. If a person is diagnosed with anemia, i.e. a very low number of healthy red blood cells, a doctor will usually request specific blood tests, including one to detect the presence of sickle cell trait.
Treatment of sickle cell trait
As this is not considered a disease and has no direct impact on a person’s health under normal conditions, there is no treatment as such. The risks that you may face due to extreme physical conditions, either brought about by the environment or by intense exercise, are preventable. You need to avoid as much as possible extreme heat and high altitude locations. Make sure that your personal trainer is aware of your health condition, so that you move on to more intensive exercise routines gradually. As long as you keep yourself hydrated by drinking a lot of water, you will be able to live a relatively healthy life.
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