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Donating Blood Improves Quality of Life for People Living with Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle Cell Awareness Month is a time to spread awareness about how blood donors can help patients battling sickle cell anemia.


Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is the most common hereditary blood disorder. It leads to sickle cell anemia (SCA), a rare blood condition that creates sickle-shaped cells that block blood vessels and oxygen to the body, causing chronic painful episodes. If left untreated, sickle cell patients are more at risk for strokes, and damage to organs like the liver, kidneys, spleen, and heart, among other complications.     

Sickle cell disease requires lifelong medical care and support, including blood transfusions and blood exchanges that help minimize pain crises and other health conditions resulting from SCA.  

Blood donors make it possible to treat the symptoms of this disease—they are a lifeline for sickle cell patients.

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Sickle Cell Facts to Know and Share

There are different types of sickle cell anemia, but the most common form is caused by the sickle cell trait (SCT). Because of a genetic predisposition for the sickle cell trait, sickle cell disease disproportionately affects African American and Hispanic communities, thereby often creating a shortage of blood products to best support people of color and those living with sickle cell anemia. Impact the lives of people in your community by signing up to become a blood donor and by spreading awareness about the need for blood donations.

Facts From the National Institute of Health (NIH) About Sickle Cell Disease (SCD):

  • Most common inherited blood disorder in the United States 

  • Affects approximately 100,000 Americans. 

  • 1 out of every 365 Black or African American babies are born with sickle cell disease. 

  • 1 out of every 16,300 Hispanic American babies are born with sickle cell disease. 

  • About 1 in 13 Black or African American babies are born with sickle cell trait

(Source: National Institute of Health: Sickle Cell Awareness Month)

Why Does Ethnicity Matter When It Comes to Blood Donation?

Transfusion medicine is an essential need for the sickle cell community. Patients rely on donated blood to be available on hospital shelves when it is needed. It is extremely important that all blood types are readily available. To best serve our community, our blood supply must reflect its population. Blood donations from people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds are needed for the best health outcomes.    

Blood donations from African American and Hispanic donors are most needed to support sickle cell patients. Shared ancestral origins in both donor and patient have proven to be the most compatible red blood cell matches, providing the best care and positive results.    

During Sickle Cell Awareness Month, we're spreading awareness about the need for a more diverse blood donor pool to best support the health of patients in our region. And when you donate blood with San Diego Blood Bank, you are helping to improve the lives of people with sickle cell, including local patient Selina.    

Selina (pictured below) receives monthly blood exchanges to remove sickle red blood cells and replace them with healthy red blood cells, which greatly affect her quality of life by reducing pain and improving overall health. Selina encourages the community to donate blood regularly to support people like her and those with other life-threatening blood disorders.

Sickle Cell Disease Treatment is Improving Thanks to Precision BloodTM  

To realize our mission, to connect diverse communities to save and improve lives through blood and biotherapies, SDBB is at the forefront of research and innovative technologies. Our next step in advancing transfusion medicine is through a precision medicine initiative called Precision Blood. This program actively supports the treatment of sickle cell patients by implementing genotyping technology to identify rare blood types and predict antigen markers on red blood cells that provide a more precise blood match for patients. When blood donations are typed using this technology, local hospitals gain greater access to blood products that are most compatible with a sickle cell patient, ensuring the most effective treatment while minimizing complications of transfusion. 

FACT: People with SCD most commonly have transfusion reactions because many require more precise antigen-matched blood due to rare blood types: C/c, E/e, and K red cell antigens.2

Precision Blood Identifies Rare Blood Types and Helps Physicians Provide the Best Care  

With more than 30 different blood groups and over 300 red blood cell antigens, genotyping both patients and blood donors ensures that patients receive the most compatible blood match available. This is because a blood recipient's immune system recognizes blood antigens that are different from their own. Without precise matching, a patient can experience debilitating and life-threatening transfusion reactions due to antigen differences, despite being matched with the correct blood group (ABO) and Rh factor (positive or negative).  

With Precision Blood creating greater access to rare types, transfusion medicine is moving towards a more personalized and patient-centric approach, further supporting physicians and their patients' life-sustaining treatments. Currently, SDBB partners with several local hospitals including Kaiser-Permanente, to ensure Sickle Cell patients receive the most compatible blood available.  

"Kaiser-Permanente is very pleased with San Diego Blood Bank's 
Precision Blood Program and sees much benefit to our patients in the
expansion of Precision Blood practices. Due to this technology at
San Diego Blood Bank, rapid turnaround time, and relatively low cost
associated, we have implemented a policy to genotype all
sickle cell disease and thalassemia children and provide them
with genotype compatible blood as we believe there is
tremendous return in the reductionin morbidity and 
mortality over the patient's life span."

—Majid Ghassemi, M.D., Chief of Service, Pathology,
Medical Director of Laboratories, Kaiser-Permanente 


San Diego Blood Bank is committed to providing a diverse blood supply to meet patient needs

Sickle cell prevalence in people of African descent and those with Hispanic heritage means that blood from Black and Hispanic & Latino blood donors is greatly needed and often, in short supply. It is our neighbors and friends, the patients, who benefit. Transfusion-dependent individuals with sickle cell anemia and other blood disorders such as Thalassemia (Cooley's Anemia), blood cancers, and rare and genetic diseases are more examples of people who require the best (and most precise) match available, to ensure the best health outcome possible. 

Now that you know a bit more about the importance of a diverse blood supply and how precision medicine improves the lives of local patients, we need the community to take action and donate blood.    

Join San Diego Blood Bank in saving local lives and supporting the health and wellness of sickle cell patients. Together, we can save lives and improve the health of our community. 

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Learn more about San Diego Blood Bank's Precision Blood Program


1. CDC | Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) | Data & Statistics (
2. CDC | 5 Steps to Safer Blood Transfusions if You Have Sickle Cell Disease - Toolkit: (