Sickle cell anemia is a genetic disorder that affects the shape of a person's red blood cells, according to Healthline. In normal people, the red blood cells are circular, which allows them to move through tiny blood vessels. However, the red blood cells of people who suffer from sickle cell anemia are shaped like a crescent, which causes the cells to stick together and prevent blood from reaching certain parts of the body.
Sickle cell anemia is an autosomal recessive condition, according to Healthline. This means that a person must get two copies of the gene from the parents in order to develop the condition. A person with only one copy of the gene has a sickle cell trait. This trait makes a person more likely to survive a malaria infection, however, making the trait more prevalent in areas prone to malaria.
Common symptoms of sickle cell anemia include anemia, which is a shortage of red blood cells, and hand-foot syndrome, in which the crescent-shaped red blood cells become trapped in a person's hands and feet, causing them to swell, states Healthline. Children with sickle cell anemia may also experience a delay in growth and sexual maturation. In most cases, these children regain their lost height and develop normally by the time they reach adulthood.