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Sickle Cell Disease

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When To Call a Doctor

Call 911 or other emergency services immediately if you have sickle cell disease and one or more of the following symptoms are present:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal (belly) pain
  • Sudden weakness
  • Sudden numbness or tingling in the hands, feet, fingers, or toes (even if it goes away on its own)
  • Sudden poor balance and poor coordination when walking (even if it goes away on its own)
  • Confusion (even if it goes away on its own)
  • Garbled speech or an inability to speak (even if it goes away on its own)
  • Sudden change in vision
  • Severe headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Fever higher than 101 °F (38.33 °C)
  • Severe cough
  • Repeated vomiting or persistent diarrhea
  • A sudden increase in the size of your or your child's spleen (Learn from your doctor how to feel your child's spleen to check its size.)
  • Increased paleness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Persistent erection of the penis (priapism) that lasts more than 2 to 3 hours or is extremely painful
  • Severe pain that can't be relieved with your usual prescription painkilling drugs or other pain-relief methods

Call your doctor if you or your child has any of the following symptoms:

Make a pain management plan with your doctor that includes where and when to get treatment in case of a sickle cell emergency.

Painful events (crises) can be treated at home depending on how severe the pain is and how long you've had it. For more information, see Home Treatment.

Who to see

If you or your child has sickle cell disease, try to find a doctor who has special training for this disease. Some medical centers and hospitals specialize in sickle cell disease treatment and support. If your local community doesn't offer this option, look for a doctor and a pain treatment specialist who have experience in treating sickle cell disorders. Choose a doctor you are comfortable with and can partner with over the long term.

The following types of health professionals can diagnose and help treat symptoms of sickle cell disease. Some of these health professionals may provide specialized treatment or counseling.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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