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Sickle cell crisis is a painful episode that may begin suddenly in a person with sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease turns normal, round red blood cells into cells that look like sickles or crescent moons. The sickle-shaped cells can get stuck in blood vessels, blocking blood flow and causing severe pain. The pain can occur in the bones of the spine, the arms and legs, the chest, and the abdomen.
An episode may be called a "painful event" or "painful crisis." Some people who have sickle cell disease have many painful events, while others have few or none.
Treatment depends on the level of pain and how long it lasts. Sometimes taking non-prescription pain relievers can help. Or you may need stronger pain relief medicine that is prescribed or given by a doctor. You may need to be treated in the hospital.
It isn't always possible to know what sets off a painful event. But triggers include being dehydrated, cold temperatures, infection, stress, and not getting enough oxygen.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if you have any problems.
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Current as of: November 29, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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