Pain is caused by sickled red blood cells which are stiff and inflexible. They get stuck in the small blood vessels and become trapped causing “log jams” inside a blood vessel. This leads to tissues and organs being deprived of oxygen rich blood and poor blood flow. If blood flow is reduced in even a small area of the body, it can cause pain and sometimes swelling. Typically, younger children often complain of pain in extremities. Older individuals more commonly experience pain in the head, chest, abdomen, and back.
Pain can be anywhere and can vary in length, location, intensity, and time between episodes.
- Pain medication and hydration is important for treatment.
- Pain crises are the most frequent cause of sickle cell disease-related hospital admissions as well as school and work absences
Some infections that may occur in individuals with SCD are:
- Septicemia (infection of the blood)
- Meningitis (infection around the brain) with pneumococcal and other bacteria
- Pneumonia (infection in the lungs)
- Osteomyelitis (infection of the bone)
- The most common cause of death in children with SCD is Streptococcus pneumonia sepsis. Death risk highest in the first few years of life.
- Most children with SCD are vaccinated against these organisms and begun on prophylactic penicillin which decreases the incidence of infections.