Sickle Cell Disease
Treatment involves getting routine tests to monitor health, managing pain events (crises), and treating related health problems as they arise.
Treatment for severe cases of sickle cell disease may include medicines. For more information, see Reference Medications.
Treatment for children
When parents learn that their baby has sickle cell disease, it's the beginning of a lifelong education process. Knowing as much as you can about the disease can help you control symptoms as they arise and know what to do in emergency situations. Treatment includes:
- Routine childhood Reference immunizations Opens New Window. Immunizations in adulthood are important too.
- Daily Reference antibiotics Opens New Window from 2 months to 5 years of age to prevent life-threatening infections. This practice stops at age 5 because older children don't have as many severe infections.
- Multivitamin supplements with iron during infancy.
- Reference Folic acid Opens New Window supplements daily.
- Protein supplements if there is a lag in weight gain.
Starting at age 2 years, your child should get screened every now and then with a Reference transcranial ultrasound. This test measures blood flow in the arteries of the head and neck. If test results show a high chance for Reference stroke Opens New Window, your child may get Reference blood transfusions to lower the risk.Reference 1
Tests to monitor treatment
Routine tests include:
- Reference Complete blood count (CBC).
- Reference Urine test.
- Tests to monitor the functioning of organs.
- Tests to check for Reference vision problems.
Pain is sometimes a chronic problem for people with sickle cell disease. Your doctor or a Reference pain treatment specialist Opens New Window can help you develop Reference pain management skills. These skills include distraction, Reference guided imagery, deep breathing, Reference relaxation, and positive self-talk.
Painful events can happen suddenly and unpredictably and can become life-threatening. Bouts of severe pain can last for hours to days and are difficult to treat. They're exhausting for caregivers as well as for the person in pain. For more information, see the topic Reference Chronic Pain.
Severe episodes of prolonged erection of the penis (Reference priapism Opens New Window) need evaluation by your doctor. Treatment may include fluids (hydration), pain medicines, treatment by a Reference urologist Opens New Window, and blood transfusions.
There are also things you can do at home to manage pain. To learn more, see Reference Home Treatment.
What to think about
A series of blood transfusions is the treatment of choice to prevent strokes and treat other aspects of sickle cell disease. Stem cell transplant is a rare treatment. For more information, see Reference Other Treatment.
People with sickle cell disease should avoid contact with anyone suspected of having Reference fifth disease Opens New Window, which is caused by parvovirus. Parvovirus can cause the body to temporarily stop making blood cells, a severe life-threatening problem in someone who has sickle cell disease. Reference Aplastic anemia can occur as a result of a shortage of red blood cells. It can come on suddenly and is life-threatening if not treated.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference October 1, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference Martin Steinberg, MD - Hematology