About sickle cell anemia

Sickle cell anemia is an inherited form of anemia. Normal red blood cells are smooth and flexible. Shaped like the letter "O," they easily move through your child’s blood vessels. Sickle cells become rigid and sticky and are shaped like the letter "C." These oddly shaped cells tend to cluster together and get stuck in the small blood vessels, slowing or blocking blood flow and oxygen.

Symptoms and diagnosis

What to look for

Signs and symptoms

  • Easily tired

  • Anemia

  • Episodes of pain

  • Painful swelling in hands and feet

  • Frequent infections

  • Delayed growth

  • Vision problems


Your child’s doctor will do a full physical exam and take a detailed medical history. They will also request a blood test to determine the type of hemoglobin your child has, if they have sickle cell anemia or if they are a carrier of the disease. 


Sickle cell anemia treatment

Our specialists offer the most advanced treatment pediatric sickle cell anemia options.


  • Medications, including pain-relievers and antibiotics, are used to reduce pain and prevent complications.

  • Blood transfusion. This is a routine medical procedure in which donated blood is used to replace blood that's been lost. 

  • Bone marrow transplant

Fighting pediatric cancer and blood disorders

UW Health Kids | Carbone Cancer Center experts are national research leaders. We test new therapies and continue to work on therapies for pediatric cancer and blood disorders. For many children with rare or hard-to-treat conditions, clinical trials provide new options.

Search our clinical trials

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UW Health Kids
Our pediatric experts have served the special needs of children for more than 100 years. We focus on each child’s unique needs and offer social and emotional support to help you and your child face even the most complex condition. Our long history includes the creation of medical advances that save lives around the world. Together, we get your child back to health and enjoying being a kid.

Patient stories

Meet our patients

Toddler Kaliyah Nelson being held in a parents' arms
“It’s the greatest, most comforting feeling"

Shyniece Jackson trusts the UW Health Kids | Carbone Cancer Center experts to care for her daughter Kaliyah Nelson, who often was in pain because of sickle cell anemia.

Meet our team

An experienced team providing your child with the care they deserve

Your child’s care is our top priority and we understand the unique needs they have.

Your child’s team will include:

  • Child life specialists

  • Hematologists (blood disease doctors)

  • Nurse practitioners

  • Nurses and transfusion medicine specialists

  • Pain management specialists

  • Physical, occupational and speech therapists

  • Radiologists and radiation technologists

  • Social workers

  • Surgeons

Meet our team


Care for your child

UW Health Kids | Carbone Cancer Center hematologists are dedicated to diagnosing and treating all infants, children and adolescents with blood disorders, including sickle cell anemia.

At American Family Children’s Hospital, you will find a friendly, child-centered environment. Our hospital is designed with relaxing spaces and areas where children are encouraged to play.

Patient and support services

You’re never alone

When your child needs hospitalization, they will be admitted to American Family Children's Hospital in Madison, Wis.

Child life specialists help your child and family cope with any fears and anxieties. The American Family Children's Hospital patient and family visitor guide features information about:

  • Hero beads

  • Hospital school

  • Positive Image Center

  • Restoring Hope Transplant House (for blood and bone marrow transplant)

  • Spiritual care services

  • Tyler's Place (sibling child care)

Additional resources

Pediatric cancer services

With our expertise comes compassion. Our team considers you and your child part of our family. We will be by your side every step of the way. From diagnosis through treatment and into adulthood, we will care for your child as if they are our own.

Learn more