If you’ve been dealing with sickle cell disease then having a pain crisis is probably not new to you. While you should always stick to your prescribed medical regimen, you can go a little further to ensure that you don’t have them as often. Here’s everything you need to know about your sickle cell disease pain crisis.
What Happens During a Pain Crisis?
During a pain crisis, abnormally shaped blood cells clump together. These clumped blood cells usually block the blood vessels that are connected to major organs. One result of this blockage will be painful episodes of varying degrees.
Another issue is that the blocked blood vessels can affect the oxygen supply to these organs. When this occurs, you may find that you’re dealing with hypoxia or low oxygen levels, which can be stressful if the organs being affected include your lungs.
The pain from a sickle cell crisis can affect different parts of the body but research shows that you’re more likely to feel the effects in your stomach, chest, and joints. As with the intensity of the pain, the duration of a crisis can also vary. Some persons may only experience it for a couple of hours while others must endure the crisis for weeks.
A pain crisis can be caused by different factors but you should be particularly wary of stressful situations, dehydration, temperature changes, being at high altitudes, and being ill. Along with pain, some of the symptoms you can expect include:
- Trouble breathing
- Weakness in the extremities
- Severe fatigue
Treatment Options For a Pain Crisis
The ways in which you can treat your pain crisis depends on what’s happening. Persons who are feeling mild pain can take over-the-counter pain medications and ease the discomfort with heating pads.
When the pain is severe, however, you may need to see your doctor. In that case, you could be treated with stronger IV medications to ease the pain. You may also need other interventions if you’re having trouble breathing.