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The signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease (SCD) vary. Some people have mild symptoms. Others have very severe symptoms that require hospitalization. Although SCD is present at birth, many babies don't show any signs until after 4 months of age. The most common signs and symptoms are anemia (low numbers of normal red blood cells) and repeated periods of pain. An episode of severe pain is called a sickle cell crisis. The pain is most common in the arms, hands, legs, feet or back. People who have severe SCD do not live as long as people with milder forms of the disease.

Other signs and symptoms of SCD may include:

  • Fatigue (Tiredness)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Coldness in the hands and feet
  • Unusually pale skin
  • Acute illness with fever, difficulty breathing and chest pain(called acute chest syndrome)
  • Yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice) 

    Learn how transplant can treat SCD

    MedlinePlus [Internet]. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); [updated 2013 Sept 16; cited 2013 Sept 16]. Available from: