Sickle-cell disease is one of the most common severe monogenic disorders in the world. Haemoglobin polymerisation, leading to erythrocyte rigidity and vaso-occlusion, is central to the pathophysiology of this disease, although the importance of chronic anaemia, haemolysis, and vasculopathy has been established. Clinical management is basic and few treatments have a robust evidence base. One of the main problems of sickle-cell disease in children is the development of cerebrovascular disease and cognitive impairment, and the role of blood transfusion and hydroxycarbamide for prevention of these complications is starting to be understood. Recurrent episodes of vaso-occlusion and inflammation result in progressive damage to most organs, including the brain, kidneys, lungs, bones, and cardiovascular system, which becomes apparent with increasing age. Most people with sickle-cell disease live in Africa, where little is known about this disease; however, we do know that the disorder follows a more severe clinical course in Africa than for the rest of the world and that infectious diseases have a role in causing this increased severity of sickle-cell disease. More work is needed to develop effective treatments that specifically target pathophysiological changes and clinical complications of sickle-cell disease.
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