Sickle cell trait is identified as a person that carries the sickle cell defect, but they have a normal hemoglobin count in their blood that prevents them from showing any of the symptoms of sickle cell anemia. Sickle cell trait is becoming recognized as a serious condition that could be fatal if not properly addressed. If you have sickle cell trait then you may have to alter your lifestyle and avoid strenuous exercise.
Although sickle cell trait does not normally give any physical symptoms, because it is the carrier for sickle cell anemia it can sometimes cause a mild form of anemia in the person suffering from sickle cell trait. Anemia is a low count of healthy red blood cells which will deprive the internal organs of the oxygen they need to function properly. In some cases sickle cell trait will cause hypertension or high blood pressure because the body is trying to get oxygen to the organs that need it.
Another possible physical symptom of sickle cell trait is severe exhaustion after prolonged physical activity. It may take you longer to regain your breath after a workout than it does other people. Over time it may get progressively harder for you to catch your breath after a long workout. In many cases this is disregarded, but if you do find it difficult to recover after a workout you may want to see your doctor.
As a result of sickle cell trait you may experience some internal infections. It is possible that women may experience increased occurrences of urinary tract infections, and men may find themselves with urinary bladder infections as a result of sickle cell trait.
In most cases sickle cell trait is found using a complicated series of blood tests. It is possible that a case of sickle cell trait will pass as normal through a standard blood test. Doctors normally use tests more sensitive to the sickle cell defect in order to find sickle cell trait. In most cases, unless a doctor is specifically looking for sickle cell trait, they may not find it.
Over the years there have been a number of deaths of young athletes attributed to overexertion, unhealthy training conditions such as heat and humidity, and sickle cell trait. Since the year 2000 the National Athletic Trainers Association estimates that at least 12 athletes with ages ranging from 12 to 19 years old have died due to complications of sickle cell trait. In June of 2009 the NCAA formally recommended that all colleges test their athletes for any signs of sickle cell trait. Doctor John Kark of the Howard University School of Medicine refers to this sickle cell trait condition as Exercise-Related Death or ERD. Dr. Kark identifies ERD as a very real and deadly complication of sickle cell trait.