Sickle cell crisis is a painful episode that may begin suddenly
in a person with sickle cell disease and may last for up to a few hours or
days. Sickle cell disease affects how hemoglobin—the protein in red blood
cells—is able to move oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.
People with sickle cell disease have only hemoglobin S, which turns
normal, round red blood cells (hemoglobin A) into abnormally curved (sickle)
shapes. A sickle cell crisis occurs when these sickle-shaped red blood cells
clump together and block small blood vessels that carry blood to certain
organs, muscles, and bones. The pain most often occurs in the bones of the
spine, arms and legs, the chest, and the abdomen. It may last from hours to days.
Treatment depends on the level of pain and how
long it lasts. Sometimes, taking nonprescription pain relievers can help. Other
times, a person needs stronger pain relief medicine that is prescribed or given
by a doctor.
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin Steinberg, MD - Hematology
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