Blog 7 – How Sickle Cell Disease Affects More Than Just Red Blood Cells – My Sickle Cell Research Xplained


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Blog 7 – How Sickle Cell Disease Affects More Than Just Red Blood Cells

People with sickle cell disease will sometimes say that it feels like their whole body is affected by their disease! Well, there are many parts of the body that sickle cell disease can affect and it’s called a “complication” of sickle cell disease when it happens.

So, which parts of the body do we know sickle cell disease affects? From head to toe – the brain, eyes, lungs, heart, spleen, liver, gallbladder, kidneys, reproductive organs, bones and skin.

The effects shown below focus on how sickling of red blood cells plays a role in organ damage, but keep in mind that there are interactions between red blood cells and other types of cells in the body that also contribute to the disease. Click on the name of each body part to see the effects of sickle cell disease!

Some of these complications mentioned above may also be silent, meaning there may be no obvious signs until the damage is severe. This is why it’s so important for those with sickle cell disease to do certain things yearly like get a urine test, get their eyes checked, and come in for their routine follow-up visits. Medical health care providers want to catch any problems as early as possible.

While sickle cell disease affects many parts of the body, it’s important to remember doctors and scientists are learning more every day about how to help sickle cell warriors through research. They want to better understand these effects and how to treat them.

You can see what’s going on in research by searching for yourself on Revisit Blog 2 to learn about clinical trials and Blog 5 for a handy guide on how to search for clinical trials! Type in “sickle cell” and the name of the organ you want to find research on.

For example, here’s a Novartis trial that you can find on that is studying a potential way to treat kidney disease from sickle cell*:

Novartis is also studying a potential way to treat priapism (prolonged erection of the penis from poor blood flow)*:

Stay tuned for examples of other trials that are going on to better understand and treat other organ systems affected by sickle cell disease. Thanks to research and volunteers in clinical trials, more is being learned every day about the future of sickle cell disease!

For a virtual experience traveling inside the human body to see firsthand how vaso-occlusion (process of clusters forming and becoming blockages) can affect the organs in sickle cell disease, download the Sickle Cell Virtual Experience app from the Apple® App Store®.

*Please note that this list is not complete since new trials may be added over time and statuses of current ongoing trials may change over time. Please visit and to see updated lists of trials.


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