Sickle Cell Crisis
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW:
A sickle cell crisis is a painful episode that occurs with people who have sickle cell anemia. It happens when your red blood cells (RBCs) sickle and block blood vessels. Blood and oxygen cannot get to tissues, causing pain. A sickle cell crisis can also damage your tissues and cause organ failure, such liver or kidney failure. A sickle cell crisis can become life-threatening.
- Medicines decrease pain. Medicine may also be given to decrease sickling of your RBCs. You may also need medicine to treat or prevent a bacterial infection.
- NSAIDs help decrease swelling and pain or fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
- Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to take and how often to take it. Follow directions. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly
- Take your medicine as directed. Call your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.
Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:
Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.
Prevent a sickle cell crisis:
- Take vitamins and minerals as directed. Folic acid can help prevent blood vessel problems that can occur with sickle cell anemia. Zinc may decrease how often you have pain.
- Drink liquids as directed. Dehydration can increase your risk for a sickle cell crisis. Ask how much liquid to drink each day and which liquids are best for you.
- Balance rest and exercise. Rest during a sickle cell crisis. Over time, increase your activity to a moderate amount. Exercise regularly. Avoid exercise or activities that can cause injury, such as football. Ask about the best exercise plan for you.
- Stay out of the cold. Do not go quickly from a warm place to a cold place. Do not go swimming in cold water. Stay warm in the winter.
- Do not smoke or drink alcohol. These increase your risk for a sickle cell crisis. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask for information if you need help quitting.
- Ask about which vaccinations you need. Vaccinations can help prevent a viral infection that may lead to a sickle cell crisis. You should get a flu shot every year. You may need a vaccine to protect you from the hepatitis B virus.
Medical alert identification:
Wear medical alert jewelry or carry a card that says you have sickle cell anemia. Ask your healthcare provider where to get medical alert identification.
Contact your healthcare provider if:
- You have any new signs or symptoms.
- You have blood in your urine.
- You are constipated or you have diarrhea.
- You have changes in your vision.
- You have increased fatigue.
- You plan to travel by airplane or to a high elevation.
- You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.
Return to the emergency department if:
- You feel like you cannot cope with your pain, or you feel like hurting yourself.
- You have a behavior changes, a seizure, or faint.
- You have a fever.
- You have abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.
- You have an erection that is painful and does not go away.
- You lose vision in one or both eyes.
- You have a headache that is worse or different from those that you have had in the past.
- You have new weakness or numbness in your arm, leg, or face.
- You have new pain in any part of your body.
- Your urine is dark in color, and you are urinating less than usual or not at all.
- You have shortness of breath or chest pain.
- You are dizzy, lightheaded, or faint.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.