Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a chronic, genetic blood disorder which causes painful attacks (sickle cell crises) that can be difficult for patients to manage. Patients with SCD over their lifetime can have problems which affect practically every part of the body. SCD changes normal, round red blood cells into ones shaped like crescent or half-moons. Normally, healthy red blood cells carry oxygen through the body. However, people with SCD do not have enough normal cells to carry the right amount of oxygen. This causes the sickled cells to get stuck and block blood vessels, which stops the oxygen from getting through the body and causes a lot of pain. When there is a blockage, the hands, feet, abdomen, back, or chest are affected.
Along with pain, symptoms of SCD can include fatigue, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, paleness or jaundice, swelling of the hands or feet, and an increased rate of infections. Sometimes, SCD can lead to damage of many organs throughout the body, delayed growth, vision problems, and strokes.
Treatment of young patients usually includes antibiotics from 2 months to 5 years of age to help prevent infections.
Children and adults should be seen regularly in the outpatient clinic to assess for symptoms, screen for complications of the disease and promote general health and well-being.
We recommend appropriate immunizations across the lifespan.
Many patients living with SCD experience pain on a daily basis and using the right combination of therapies can help to treat this. Developing a pain management plan with a physician or pain management specialist is encouraged at the center.