Sickle cell trait occurs when a person inherits a sickle cell gene from just one parent. People with sickle cell trait rarely have symptoms. But they can pass the sickle cell gene on to their children.
Testing positive for sickle cell trait doesn't mean that you need to have treatment or make changes in your activities. But in some cases, a person with sickle cell trait may have muscle pain or other serious health problems. These problems can happen under certain extreme conditions, such as intense exercise, overheating, or being at a high altitude.
If you exercise intensely or are a competitive athlete, there are things you can do to help prevent complications:1
- Drink plenty of fluids. Do this especially during intense activities.
- Increase your level of performance gradually.
- Stop right away if you feel muscle pain, weakness, or fatigue, or are out of breath.
How it's diagnosed
A simple blood test can show whether you have sickle cell trait. During pregnancy, a woman can have a test to find out if the baby will have the condition. In the United States, most states test for sickle cell status at birth. Some colleges screen athletes for sickle cell trait.
- National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (2002). The Management of Sickle Cell Disease (NIH Publication No. 02-2117). Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/blood/sickle/.
Current as of: September 8, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Martin Steinberg MD - Hematology