Sickle cell disease is a blood disorder that’s inherited — meaning it’s passed down from parents to their children. Babies are born with sickle cell disease when they inherit two abnormal genes (one from each parent). These genes cause the body’s red blood cells to change shape.

Normal red blood cells are shaped like discs or donuts with the centers partly scooped out. They are soft and flexible so they can easily move through very small blood vessels and deliver oxygen throughout a person’s body.

Sickle cells are stiffer. Instead of being disc shaped, they’re curved like crescent moons, or an old farm tool known as a sickle. That’s where the disease gets its name.

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