Sickle Cell Anemia

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A young African American girl lifts off a pair of sparkly red sunglasses.

Sickle cell anemia primarily affects people of African descent.


Alert! Alert! 
Because NICHCY’s website will only remain online until September 30, 2014, most of its rich content has moved to a new home, the Center for Parent Information and Resources (CPIR), where it can be kept up to date. 

The new address of the Sickle Cell Anemia fact sheet at the CPIR is:


August 2009

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), our nation’s special education law, defines 14 categories of disability under which a child may be found eligible for special education and related services. One of those categories is “Other Health Impairment,” or OHI, for short. Within OHI’s definition, numerous disabilities and medical conditions are explicitly named.  Sickle Cell Anemia is one such.

This resource page accompanies NICHCY’s fact sheet on Other Health Impairment and provides a brief overview of sickle cell anemia and connections to additional information.

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A Brief Look at Sickle Cell Anemia

Anemia, in general, is a condition where an individual’s blood has less than a normal number of red blood cells or the red blood cells themselves don’t have enough hemoglobin (which carries oxygen throughout the body).

Sickle cell anemia is one type of anemia where the hemoglobin is abnormal and the red blood cells often become shaped like the letter C, making them sickle-shaped (like a crescent). This shape, in turn, makes it difficult for the red blood cells to pass through small blood vessels, causing pain and damaging organs.

Literally millions of people worldwide are affected by sickle cell anemia. The disease is inherited and primarily affects people of African descent. Symptoms include:

  • chronic anemia
  • periodic episodes of pain (in the arms, legs, chest, and abdomen)

Diagnosing the disease involves a simple blood test to determine what type of hemoglobin a person has and if the red blood cells are, indeed, sickle-shaped. While there is no cure for sickle cell anemia, there are treatments for the disease’s symptoms and complications that may arise. Untreated, the disease can damage organs in the body, including the spleen, kidneys, and liver, so it’s important to seek treatment as early as possible.

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Resources of More Information on Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Inc.
(800) 421-8453

A fun, educational website for kids with sickle cell anemnia.

American Sickle Cell Anemia Association

Información en español 

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NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resources' Library at This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to