Pain Associated with Sickle Cell

Sickle cell is a group of red blood cell disorders due to a lack of healthy red blood cells. This affects the supply of oxygen to the body. Apart from supplying oxygen to the body, these cells are also responsible for bringing deoxygenated blood to the heart. After the lungs oxygenate the blood, it’s ready for circulation via the heart. Without proper blood circulation, this cleansing process stops working. There isn’t a cure for many sickle cell patients. However, you can manage your condition by relieving the pain through several treatments. The pain-relieving techniques will prevent complications from arising.

Symptoms of Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease includes various symptoms depending on the person’s condition. Here are some of the signs that you might experience:

1. Anemia

There are fewer red blood cells left in the body after the damage to the short-living sickled cells. The experts refer to this condition as anemia. When your anemia becomes severe, you start to feel tired, shortness of breath, and dizzy. 

2. Sickle Crisis or Pain Crisis

Pain crisis occurs due to blood not reaching certain areas of the body. Sickled cells are the reason for blockages in your blood vessels. You might experience pain in your chest, legs, and arms. However, you may also feel pain in any part of your body. When children or infants develop this condition, they will have painful swelling on their toes and fingers. Tissue might also die because of the interruption in the blood flow.

3. Acute Chest Syndrome

When you experience sickling in your chest, you might be having this disorder. Acute chest syndrome usually occurs when you suffer from dehydration, fever, or infection. Sudden development of this condition might be life-threatening. The severity of these diseases will block the tiny vessels of your lungs because of sickled cells. The symptoms of this condition resemble pneumonia, such as pain, fever, and a violent cough.

4. Splenic Sequestration (Pooling)

When your spleen pools with sickle cells, you will develop this condition. The hemoglobin in the body suddenly drops, making it a life-threatening disease. Therefore, you need to seek a cure for this disorder immediately. You will start to experience pain and an enlargement of the spleen due to the increased blood flow. When you have several attacks, your spleen will undergo serious damage and scar. Most children at the age of eight develop this condition, prompting immediate surgery. The doctor will have to remove the spleen through a surgical procedure, saving the child. Children might also develop the infection if their spleen stops working. The main reason for death in children under the age of five is infection.

5. Stroke

People who have sickle cell disease also develop this severe and sudden complication over time. A stroke occurs when your major blood vessel block, affecting oxygen supply to the brain. When your brain does not receive sufficient oxygen and blood, you might also experience severe brain damage. Having the first stroke is a sign that you might also have a second one or possibly more. Therefore, you should immediately visit the doctor and consider this condition severe. 

6. Jaundice

Jaundice is another symptom of sickle cell disease. Sickle cells have a shorter life span than normal blood cells. Therefore, the liver cannot filter these cells as they die faster. When these cells break down, bilirubin will build up in the system resulting in jaundice. 

7. Priapism

This sickle disease affects the blood vessels in the penis. The reduced blood circulation to the penis can cause severe pain. If you do not receive proper care and treatment promptly, you might become impotent. The symptoms of priapism are similar to other medical problems and blood disorders. You should consult with a professional doctor for diagnosis and treatment. The Healthcare provider will identify the blockage of blood circulation and provide suitable solutions.

Types of Sickle Cell Disease

Red blood cells contain hemoglobin which is responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body. These proteins include two alpha and two beta chains. When these chains mutate differently, you are at risk of developing one of four main types of sickle cell anemia.

1. Hemoglobin SS Disease

This is the most common type of sickle cell disease, which a person can inherit from their parents. You develop this condition after inheriting hemoglobin S gene copies from both parents. Specialists will refer to this form of Hemoglobin as Hb SS. This disease is the most severe type of SCD. While suffering, you might experience wide-range and painful symptoms affecting your quality of life. 

2. Hemoglobin SC Disease

This type of sickle disease is the second most common. A child would have to inherit the Hb S gene from one parent and the other’s Hb C gene. If they inherit both, they may develop this disease. The anemia in this condition is not severe. But the symptoms of Hb Sc are similar to the Hb SS.

3. Hemoglobin SB+ (beta) Thalassemia

Hemoglobin SB+ occurs due to the production of the beta-globin gene in the body. Due to reduced beta-protein production, red blood cells will shrink. You may develop this condition when you inherit the Hb S gene and have hemoglobin S bet thalassemia. The symptoms are not severe.

4. Hemoglobin SB 0 (Beta-zero) Thalassemia

This is the fourth type of sickle cell disease. This condition includes the beta-globin gene. The similarities of sickle beta-zero thalassemia are similar to Hb SS anemia. The symptoms of this disorder may get severe over time. 

5. Hemoglobin SD

These conditions do not include any severe symptoms and are rare.

6. Sickle Cell Trait

If you inherit Hemoglobin S from one parent, then you will have the sickle cell trait. This condition does not include any symptoms, or the symptoms are not severe.

Managing the Pain Associated with Sickle Cell

People who have sickle cell disease usually experience severe pain. This occurs after the sickle-shaped cell blocks the blood flow by getting stuck in the blood vessels. After developing this condition, you will start to experience sudden pain episodes in different parts of the body. These parts can include your arms, lower back, belly, chest, and legs. The pain can also become chronic and last for a long time.

Controlling sickle cell pain might affect you mentally. You can also suffer from depression and stress due to constant pain. Despite the type of sickle cell you have, you can seek help from numerous pain relief techniques. Discuss your condition with a doctor, and they will assist you with better strategies to manage your pain.

The doctor might prescribe you over-the-counter medicines for pain. Acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen are prime examples of off-the-shelf painkillers. These medications might provide you relief from episodes of pain. If you are under 19, you should not consume aspirin. 

Here are some other techniques that you can follow:

• Take a warm bath or utilize a heating pad in the affected area.

• When you start to experience symptoms, you can drink fluids such as juices and water. Staying hydrated will lower your risk of getting the worst attack.

• Divert your mind from the pain by listening to music, watching TV, and talk to a friend over the phone.

• Relaxation techniques such as acupuncture and massage might also help you.

However, if you cannot handle the pain at home, you can visit pain management centers and seek help. Even if you are suffering from severe pain due to sickle cell disease, professional doctors at the center can help. Doctors might also provide powerful painkillers and give you fluids through IV.

Sickle Cell and Chronic Pain

Suffering from sickle disease for a long time can cause painful complications for adults. For instance, developing sickle cell disease will damage your bones and joints. As a result, you will start to experience chronic pain because of poor blood flow.

Doctors will prescribe painkillers to deal with your chronic pain. You need to have these medications daily. Furthermore, they will also recommend physical and pain management therapy from a pain management specialist. Also, using the orthopedic device will provide support to your limbs and back. Doctors might also recommend surgeries to provide relief from your condition.


Spending your life with sickle cell disease can be challenging, especially for your child. Consistent and rapid pain might cause depression and anxiety. You might feel lonely because of your condition. Having these feelings will eventually trigger your condition and cause more problems. 

Seek help from a counselor or undergo psychotherapy if you feel sad, stressed, or overwhelmed. When you talk with a professional about your mental health, they will provide better solutions to handle the pain. Therefore, if you are suffering from sickle cell disease and tired of the pain, immediately visit a pain management expert.

You can also join a support group and connect with different people living in the same condition. These sessions will give you new ideas to handle the pain and provide support. You can seek pain relief and get advice for your challenges in life by discussing them with others.

Disclaimer: The Content is not meant to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek your physician’s advice or other qualified health providers with any questions regarding a medical condition.