WHY DO MY
CELLS SICKLE?

ABRAHAM

Soccer fan, nurse, and actual Oxbryta patient

SICKLE CELL IS CAUSED BY A SICKLE GENE INSIDE RED BLOOD CELLS THAT IS INHERITED FROM BOTH PARENTS

With sickle cell, the hemoglobin in the red blood cell releases oxygen, causing it to clump together (polymerize)

Polymerization [po-ly-mer-i-za-tion] happens when the hemoglobin inside of red blood cells releases oxygen and clumps together to form long, stiff chains.
Polymerization causes sickling and can lead to a range of conditions from fatigue to pain crises.
and change into a sickle, or banana shape.

With sickle cell, the hemoglobin in the red blood cell releases oxygen, causing it to clump together (polymerize) and change into a sickle, or banana shape.

Healthy red blood cells

HEALTHY RED BLOOD CELLS

are flexible, can change shape easily, and can travel through blood vessels of any size.

Hemoglobin

HEMOGLOBIN

is a special protein inside red blood cells that helps carry oxygen throughout the body.

Sickled hemoglobin

POLYMERIZATION & SICKLING

occur when hemoglobin inside red blood cells clumps together and forms a sickle shape.

WHAT SICKLING CAN TRIGGER

Polymerization, which causes sickling, can cause other things to happen in the body, including 3 very serious consequences that may lead to long-term damage:

What sickling can trigger
What sickling can trigger
A

NEMIA:

When red blood cells break down, the body does not have the amount of healthy red blood cells that it needs. This is called anemia, and this type of anemia could result in the body not having enough oxygen. Over time, lack of oxygen can damage body tissue, organs, and joints.

H

EMOLYSIS:

Polymerization and sickling weaken red blood, cells causing them to break down (hemolysis).

V

ASO-OCCLUSIONS/PAIN CRISES:

Sickled cells can block blood flow. When a blood vessel is partially or completely blocked, a pain crisis may occur.

HEMOLYSIS CAUSES BILIRUBIN AND RETICULOCYTES TO INCREASE

1

Signs & Symptoms

The breakdown of red blood cells (RBCs)

Bilirubin

Bilirubin

Bilirubin [bil-uh-roo-bin] is a substance made in the body when red blood cells break down. Low bilirubin levels are good because that means fewer red blood cells are breaking down, which can lead to anemia.

Bilirubin

When there are high levels of bilirubin, yellowing of the eyes and skin may occur (jaundice).

Reticulocyte

Reticulocyte

A reticulocyte [ri-tik-uh-luh-site] is a new or “baby” red blood cell that has not yet fully developed. When your body isn’t getting enough oxygen, the body works hard to add more red blood cells by creating reticulocytes.

Reticulocyte

High numbers of reticulocytes mean that the body is working to replace broken down RBCs.

2

Impact

Too few RBCs

Oxygen

Oxygen

When RBCs break down, less RBCs can deliver oxygen throughout your body, which may lead to damage.

ANEMIA IS ANOTHER RESULT OF RED BLOOD CELLS BREAKING DOWN

1

Signs

Too few RBCs

Hemoglobin

Hemoglobin

A protein in RBCs that carries oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.

When there are low levels of hemoglobin, you may experience anemia.

2

Symptoms

Too few RBCs

Difficulty thinking

Difficulty thinking or concentrating

Less ability

Less ability to do physical things

Weary

Feeling weary

Weak

Feeling weak

3

Impact

Too few RBCs

Bilirubin

Oxygen

When your body does not have the amount of RBCs that it needs, this may mean not enough oxygen is being delivered throughout your body, which may lead to damage.

Please note all signs and symptoms that you experience and advise your healthcare professional.


A CLOSER LOOK

Take a look inside the red blood cell to learn more about why cells sickle and the impact sickling can have on the body.

"My sickle cell is more than pain."

– MUYIWA

Actual Oxbryta patient

MUYIWA

Actual Oxbryta patient

SICKLE CELL IS A 365-DAY-A-YEAR CONDITION

When many people think about sickle cell, they only think about the painful crises that can put those living with sickle cell in the hospital. Many don't realize that sickle cell is more than that.

Sickle cell is a 365-day-a-year condition. That can mean living with day-to-day fatigue, yellow eyes from jaundice, and shortness of breath—all things you can easily feel and see.

But in addition, damage from sickle cell is always happening even if you don’t have pain crises or feel sick at all. Even when you feel fine, sickle cell may be causing damage. This damage can mean harm for many parts of your body.


WHAT ELSE CAN I DO TO BETTER MANAGE MY CONDITION?

Labs and screenings help you and your doctor to proactively manage your sickle cell.

They can show if you are becoming anemic, if your blood cells are making too few red blood cells, if the red blood cells are breaking down too quickly, or if there are any other changes happening in your body.

There are some basics that can help you manage your sickle cell successfully. Be sure to see your doctor regularly and establish an open dialogue so you can get the care you need.

LAKESHA

Actual Oxbryta patient

Knowing your numbers is important

Your healthcare provider may check your lab reports for the following levels:

  • Hemoglobin
  • Red blood cells
  • Reticulocytes
  • Bilirubin

Knowing your labs can tell you and your healthcare provider if you have or are at risk for anemia or any other damage or complications from sickle cell.