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Sickle-cell anemia tied to cognitive impairment

Patients show deficits in standardized tests

People with sickle-cell anemia harbor cognitive deficits that show up as lower-than-average scores on IQ tests, a new study suggests. The poor performance comes even when MRI scans show no brain damage and the patients have no other complications from the disease apart from anemia and pain, researchers report in the May 12 Journal of the American Medical Association.

"These neurocognitive effects are an invisible complication of the central nervous system in sickle-cell disease," says Samir Ballas, a hematologist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia who was not involved in the research.

Sickle-cell anemia results from an inherited genetic mutation that causes red blood cells to take on a curved, or sickle, shape that impairs blood flow, thwarts oxygen delivery and leads to a host of other health problems.

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