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Sickle cell disease as a neurodevelopmental disorder.

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Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina 29208, USA.


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a blood disorder; however, the central nervous system (CNS) is one of the organs frequently affected by the disease. Brain disease can begin early in life and often leads to neurocognitive dysfunction. Approximately one-fourth to one-third of children with SCD have some form of CNS effects from the disease, which typically manifest as deficits in specific cognitive domains and academic difficulties. We discuss SCD as a neurodevelopmental disorder by reviewing the mechanisms of neurological morbidity in SCD, the timing of these mechanisms, the types of cognitive and behavioral morbidity that is typical, and the interaction of social-environmental context with disease processes. The impact of the disease on families shares many features similar to other neurodevelopmental disorders; however, social-environmental factors related to low socioeconomic status, worry and concerns about social stigma, and recurrent, unpredictable medical complications can be sources of relatively higher stress in SCD. Greater public awareness of the neurocognitive effects of SCD and their impact on child outcomes is a critical step toward improved treatment, adaptation to illness, and quality of life.

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