Exams and Tests
Sickle cell disease is diagnosed when initial tests show abnormal hemoglobin, with more testing if needed. A sickle cell test looks for sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease.
Doctors can diagnose sickle cell disease before a child is born (prenatally). Couples who are at risk for passing on this disease to their children may want to talk with a genetic counselor about prenatal testing.
Prenatal tests include:
Sickle cell disease can be diagnosed at birth. Most states in the United States screen all newborns for sickle cell disease along with other common disorders. You can also ask for screening.
Soon after birth, a sample of blood is taken from the infant's heel and sent to a lab, where it is screened for the presence of sickle cell hemoglobin (hemoglobin S).
If one member of a couple has sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait, the other member should be tested before becoming pregnant. This test requires a blood sample, which is screened for the presence of hemoglobin S, hemoglobin C, or beta-thalassemia.
If one or both members of a couple carry a hemoglobin S gene or another abnormal hemoglobin gene, the couple may want to meet with a genetic counselor before becoming pregnant to learn more about their chances of having a child with sickle cell disease. Your doctor can help you find a genetic counselor to discuss a genetic test.
Pulmonary hypertension is a severe, common problem for people who have sickle cell disease. It can be detected early with an echocardiogram, a painless method of measuring blood flow.