Skip to content

    Pain Management Health Center

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Pain Management: Sickle Cell Disease

    What Are the Symptoms of Sickle Cell Crisis?

    Symptoms of sickle cell crisis include:

    • Severe pain
    • Anemia
    • Chest pain and difficulty breathing
    • Strokes
    • Joint pain and arthritis and bone infarctions
    • Blockage of blood flow in the spleen or liver
    • Severe infections

    Patients with sickle cell disease may develop severe pain in the chest, back, arms, legs, and abdomen. Pain can occur anywhere in the body. Sickle red blood cells in the lungs can cause severe illness with chest pain, fever, and difficulty breathing. Sickle cell disease can also cause permanent damage to the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, and bones. The severity and symptoms vary greatly from person to person, even within the same family.

    How Is Sickle Cell Disease Diagnosed?

    Sickle-shaped red blood cells can be seen when a blood sample is examined under a microscope. But sickle cell disease is diagnosed by a blood test called hemoglobin electrophoresis, which measures the amount of the abnormal sickle hemoglobin. The amount of sickle hemoglobin determines whether the person is a carrier (sickle cell trait) or has sickle cell disease.

    There are also rapid screening tests that detect the formation of sickle red blood cells or clumps of abnormal sickle hemoglobin when oxygen is removed from the blood. These tests are less commonly used, because they cannot distinguish between sickle cell trait and sickle cell disease.

    Prenatal testing for sickle cell disease is possible by examining the DNA of fetal cells obtained by chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis.

    Testing newborns for sickle cell disease is required by law in all 50 states. Early detection and treatment reduces the risk of serious infections and other complications.

    How Is Sickle Cell Disease Treated?

    Treatment of sickle cell crisis includes:

    Transfusions of red blood cells are given for severe anemia, to prevent strokes, and before surgery. Sometimes an exchange transfusion is performed with a special machine that removes the abnormal sickle red blood cells and replaces them with normal red blood cells.

    Today on WebMD

    pain in brain and nerves
    Top causes and how to find relief.
    knee exercise
    8 exercises for less knee pain.
     
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    How it helps arthritis, migraines, and dental pain.
    chronic pain
    Get personalized tips to reduce discomfort.
     
    illustration of nerves in hand
    Slideshow
    lumbar spine
    Slideshow
     
    Woman opening window
    Slideshow
    Man holding handful of pills
    Video
     
    Woman shopping for vegetables
    Slideshow
    Sore feet with high heel shoes
    Slideshow
     
    acupuncture needles in woman's back
    Slideshow
    man with a migraine
    Slideshow