The most common symptom of sickle cell disease is pain. Many of those who suffer from Sickle Cell diseases deal with a great deal of pain, which many times leads to emergency room visits. Not all patients with Sickle Cell diseases experience pain, though.
During painful crises, pain may emanate from the bones, usually in the arms, hands, legs, feet, or back. There may also be pain in the stomach or abdomen, or in the chest.
Other than pain, there are additional health problems that those with sickle cell disease may experience.
|People with sickle cell disease are more likely to get infections.|
|Sickle cell disease can cause anemia (or a low blood count), which can make people to feel tired.|
|Organs (such as the liver and kidneys) can be damaged if too many large blood vessels in the area are blocked and the organs do not get enough oxygen.|
|People with sickle cell disease may suffer from “acute chest syndrome,” which is difficulty breathing and severe chest pain.|
|People with sickle cell disease may have problems with their eyes as a result of blockages in small blood vessels.|
|Skin ulcers, or sores on the skin that do not heal well, may develop, especially on the lower legs.|
Unfortunately, there is no cure for sickle cell disease. There are treatments and precautions, however, which can help treat the disease, prevent painful sickle cell crises, and relieve pain.
Some sickle cell crises can be prevented by avoiding situations that bring on the crises. This includes avoiding exposure to cold weather, getting plenty of sleep and rest, being careful not to exercise too hard, and drinking plenty of fluids.
Treating the Pain of Sickle Cell Diseases
Emergency room visits are common to treat the pain of a sickle cell crisis. Some sickle cell patients have had bad experiences in emergency rooms and hospitals because health care professionals have questioned their pain and their desire for pain medications. Some may even have been accused of being addicted to pain medications. Health care professionals need to understand that wanting medications to help the pain of a sickle cell crisis does not make a patient a drug addict. Bad experiences with medical professionals lead many sickle cell patients to distrust health care professionals. It is important for patients with this affliction to find doctors who understand their disease and are sympathetic to their distress.
For many patients, taking opioid medications daily can be extremely helpful during painful crisis, along with additional pain medications. The daily opioids can help reduce the number of crises and make the pain less severe. This may cause patients and their family members to worry about addiction.
Other medications that may be prescribed by a doctor for relief from sickle cell pain are:
|Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen|
|Certain antidepressant medications or anticonvulsant medications that also help relieve pain|
Not all treatments involve drugs
There are non-drug treatments that can ease the pain of Sickle Cell diseases, or prevent the pain from happening in the first place. Physical therapy can be used to incorporate gentle exercises and heat and cold treatments to help with sickle cell disease pain.
Some patients also find that seeing a psychologist helps cope with the illness or in learning new techniques to help control the pain.
Doctors Allan Platt, Lewis Hsu and Silvia Brandalise are working on a new version of their best-selling Hope & Destiny, written specifically for adolescents with Sickle Cell Diseases. The book will be out early 2013, along with a coloring book for younger children afflicted by the diseases.