The Sickle Cell Crisis & Pain Mechanisms

Sickle cell disease is a type of anemia that causes the red blood cells to develop improperly and prematurely causing the shape of the cells to be sickle, or half moon shaped. Most of us have heard the term anemia but the majority of people do not realize that anemia simply means a lack of red blood cells, and oxygen being delivered.

While there are many types of anemia, sickle cell anemia is a unique variation that disproportionately affects people of color, specifically those of African and Latin descent.

The most common symptoms of anemia include fatigue and weakness, however, sickle cell differs in that it is characterized by what is known as “sickle cell crises”. Sickle cell crises are painful flare-ups that can last several hours, to even days.

Why are sickle cell crises more painful, severe and longer lasting than other anemia-related flare-ups? The answer lies in the shape and composition of red blood cells. When a person has sickle cell anemia and the red blood cell does not grow to its full size because of a lack of hemoglobin.

Hemoglobin is responsible for