One mission of SWLA Sickle Cell Anemia, Inc. is to enhance the quality of life for persons with Sickle Cell Disease, their families, and the community through the referral of needs to support services. If you or a loved one is in need of assistance, send us a message.

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Frequently Asked Questions

All answers are provided courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.


What is sickle cell disease?

Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a term for a group of inherited red blood cell disorders in which red blood cells have abnormal hemglobin.

Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that takes up oxygen in the lungs and carries it to all the tissues of the body. 

Red blood cells with normal hemoglobin are disc shaped which allows flexibility when moving through large and small blood vessels. Sickle hemoglobin can form stiff rods within red blood cells giving them a sickle, or crescent, shape.

Sickle-shaped cells are not flexible and can stick to vessel walls, causing a blockage that slows or stops the flow of blood. When this happens, oxygen can’t reach nearby tissues.


What is sickle cell trait?

The abnormal hemoglobin that causes sickle cell disease (SCD) is called hemoglobin S

Sickle cell trait is when a person inherits the hemoglobin S gene from one parent, and a normal hemoglobin gene from the other. 

People with sickle cell trait are typically healthy, although in rare instances, people with sickle cell trait can exhibit similar health complications as those with SCD.


If sickle cell trait is not an illness, why are people tested?

People with sickle cell trait are generally healthy, but they are carriers of the defective defective hemoglobin S gene. 

If a child has one parent with sickle cell trait, and the other parent also has sickle cell trait or another abnormal hemoglobin gene, there is a chance that child will have sickle cell disease.


What medical problems are caused by sickle cell disease?

The lack of tissue oxygen caused by sickle cell disease (SCD) can lead to attacks of sudden, intense pain called pain crises. These occur without warning and most often require hospital visits to receive effective treatment. 

SCD can also lead to a number of other complications and illnesses including stroke, organ damage, blindness, gallstones, and pulmonary hypertension.


Are people of African descent the only group affected?

In the United States, most people with sickle cell disease (SCD) are of African Ancestry. 

  • About 1 in 13 African American babies are born with sickle cell trait.
  •  About 1 in every 365 African American children is born with SDC.

That said, SDC can be found in persons with Hispanic, southern European, Middle Eastern, or Asian Indian backgrounds.


Is there a cure?

There is currently no universal cure for sickle cell disease (SCD). There are effective treatments that can reduce symptoms and prolong life. 

Early diagnosis and regular medical care to prevent complications also contribute to improved well-being.