Sickle cell and blood transfusions

Blood transfusions can make a huge difference to people with sickle cell.

The growing use of blood transfusions to manage blood disorders, such as sickle cell, means there’s an increased demand for certain blood types. 

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What is sickle cell?

Sickle cell is a group of hereditary blood disorders that cause red blood cells to become sickle (or half-moon) shaped.

This makes it harder for the red cells to move around the body and they can stick together, blocking blood vessels. 

Symptoms of sickle cell include excruciating pain, anaemia and organ damage. 

Anyone can have sickle cell, but it most commonly affects people from Black African or Black Caribbean backgrounds.

More and more people are living with sickle cell and we depend on blood to give us our lives back.

Calvin has a red cell exchange every month

Blood transfusions for people with sickle cell

Regular blood transfusions every 4 to 6 weeks are one of the ways to prevent or relieve the symptoms of sickle cell.

In recent years more and more people with sickle cell have started having red cell exchange transfusions.

The process removes the person’s red blood cells and replaces them with those from donors.

This requires much more blood than other types of transfusion so the demand for blood has increased.

A stem cell (or bone marrow) transplant is the only known cure for sickle cell.

Find out more about donating stem cells.

Finding the right blood for sickle cell patients

To get the best treatment, people with sickle cell who have regular transfusions need blood that’s really similar to their own. This is most likely to come from a donor of the same ethnicity.

As sickle cell is more common in Black people, there’s a real need for blood types that are more common in people of Black heritage.

Find out more about why more Black blood donors are needed

Donating is really simple and you just get on with your day, but it’s life changing for someone else.

Zamzam has the rare Ro subtype, which is often needed by people with sickle cell

How you can help

We need people from all communities to give blood to make sure there’s the right blood available for everyone.

Start giving blood

To become a blood donor you just need to sign up and book an appointment.

Give blood again

If you’ve given blood before, please book an appointment to donate again.

Giving blood if you have the sickle cell trait

You can give blood if you have the sickle cell trait. Just let us know when you donate.