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Sickle Cell and Thalassemia Diseases


Sickle cell disease and beta thalassemia are inherited diseases of the blood which interfere with the ability of the body to manufacture normal hemoglobin (part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen).

In sickle cell disease, the cells take the form of "sickles" under certain conditions. When this happens, there is a blockage of the small blood vessels, causing damage to body organs. Repeated attacks of pain may occur following emotional stress, strenuous exercise, infections, or even during the common cold. Symptoms can be mild or severe, sometimes requiring frequent emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

People with beta thalassemia have reduced amounts of hemoglobin in the blood, resulting in severe anemia (too few red blood cells). Usually babies are diagnosed with the disease between the ages of six and 18 months.

The altered genes causing sickle cell disease and thalassemia are inherited through many generations and are more likely to occur among certain populations.

Sickle cell disease and thalassemia affects African, African-American, Afro-Caribbean, Hispanic/Latino, Italian, Greek, Asian, and Arab people.

It is important for patients to find out whether they carry a disease or trait, which could cause the disease to be passed to children. A simple blood test is the best method. Since 1975, newborns in New York State have routinely been tested at birth for sickle cell disease.

Signs of sickle cell disease:

  • fevers
  • tiredness and fatigue
  • pain in the bones & joints
  • enlarged stomach
  • swelling in the hands and feet (in young children)

Signs of thalassemia:

  • anemia
  • dull, sallow complexion
  • failure to thrive

Services Available at New York Methodist Hospital

The Sickle Cell/Thalassemia Program at NYM provides comprehensive health care and treatment for pediatric, adolescent, and adult patients. As patients move from very young, through adolescence and into adulthood, NYM is prepared to handle the diseases at every stage of a person's life.

Anyone who suspects they may have one of these diseases can make an appointment for initial testing.

Services include:

  • Scheduled comprehensive care and monitoring for complications
  • Walk-in service when necessary
  • Management during hospitalization
  • Transition service
  • Vitamin therapy
  • Prescription medications, if appropriate
  • Pain management
  • Coordination of transfusion services
  • Individual and family counseling
  • Support groups for adults, adolescents, and parents
  • Family planning, including genetic counseling
  • Special clinics for pregnant women and adolescent patients
  • Financial concerns

Pediatric care, immunizations, and well-baby check-ups are also available for the siblings of children who are enrolled in the program.

New York Methodist Hospital's Sickle Cell/Thalassemia Program is located at 512 Fifth Street.

To make an appointment, call 718.857.5643.

Learn more about thalassemia and sickle cell diseases.

Contact NYM

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