Sickle-cell disease is an inherited form of anemia in which misshapen red blood cells, resembling crescent moons or small sickles, become sticky and rigid, carry fewer oxygen molecules, and get stuck in smaller blood vessels, resulting in pain.
There is no cure for sickle-cell, but with proper care and management, people with the condition can help themselves avoid the complications and pain associated with the disease.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, people with sickle-cell can prevent or minimize complications by doing the following:
• Avoiding sudden changes in temperature, or extreme heat or cold, all of which can trigger pain
• Minimizing stress and getting sufficient sleep
• Drinking plenty of fluids and maintaining a healthy, well-balanced diet
• Not smoking, and avoiding secondhand smoke
• Following their doctors’ orders, and taking all medications as indicated
• Getting plenty of regular physical activity, while avoiding overexertion
People with sickle-cell disease should seek medical attention if they experience any of the following:
• Difficulty breathing
• Sudden changes in vision
• Symptoms of severe anemia, including lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and fast heart rate
Pain management often may be achieved through:
• Physical therapy
• Heating pads
• Warm baths
• Stress relief and management
Living with sickle-cell can be stressful, so people with the condition should seek professional help if they are struggling with depression or anxiety.
(Adapted from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.)