What Does Sickle Cell Anemia Look Like Under the Microscope?


Quick Answer

Under the microscope, red blood cells from a patient with sickle cell anemia are sickle-shaped, meaning that they look like crescents, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Normally, red blood cells are shaped like doughnuts without holes, or biconcave disks.

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The difference in red blood cell shape is due to an abnormal type of hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen, explains the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. In sickle cell patients, the abnormal hemoglobin clumps together to form rods, leading to the sickle-shaped red blood cells. Unlike normal red blood cells, these sickle-shaped cells stick to the walls of blood vessels and lead to blockages. The blocked blood flow can lead to painful episodes and organ damage.

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