Sickle Cell Anemia

What is Sickle Cell Anemia

Sickle cell anemia is a condition where your red blood cells are shaped like sickles. Red blood cells carry oxygen through the body. Sickle-shaped cells do not live as long as normal red blood cells.

They also clump together and block blood from flowing through the blood vessels. This prevents the body from getting enough oxygen. Sickle cell anemia causes organ damage and pain. It also increases the risk of infection.

Follow these instructions at home:

Medicines

  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • If you were prescribed an antibiotic medicine, take it as told by your doctor. Do not stop taking the antibiotic even if you start to feel better.
  • If you develop a fever, do not take medicines to lower the fever right away. Tell your doctor about the fever.

Managing pain, stiffness, and swelling

  • Try these methods to help with pain:
    • Use a heating pad.
    • Take a warm bath.
    • Distract yourself, such as by watching TV.

Eating and drinking

  • Drink enough fluid to keep your pee (urine) clear or pale yellow. Drink more in hot weather and during exercise.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
  • Take vitamins and supplements as told by your doctor.

Traveling

  • When traveling, keep these with you:
    • Your medical information.
    • The names of your doctors.
    • Your medicines.
  • If you need to take an airplane, talk to your doctor first.

Activity

  • Rest often.
  • Avoid exercises that make your heart beat much faster, such as jogging.

General instructions

  • Do not use products that have nicotine or tobacco, such as cigarettes and e-cigarettes. If you need help quitting, ask your doctor.
  • Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet.
  • Avoid being in high places (high altitudes), such as mountains.
  • Avoid very hot or cold temperatures.
  • Avoid places where the temperature changes a lot.
  • Keep all follow-up visits as told by your doctor. This is important.

Contact a doctor if:

  • A joint hurts.
  • Your feet or hands hurt or swell.
  • You feel tired (fatigued).

Get help right away if:

  • You have symptoms of infection. These include:
    • Fever.
    • Chills.
    • Being very tired.
    • Irritability.
    • Poor eating.
    • Throwing up (vomiting).
  • You feel dizzy or faint.
  • You have new stomach pain, especially on the left side.
  • You have a an erection (priapism) that lasts more than 4 hours.
  • You have numbness in your arms or legs.
  • You have a hard time moving your arms or legs.
  • You have trouble talking.
  • You have pain that does not go away when you take medicine.
  • You are short of breath.
  • You are breathing fast.
  • You have a long-term cough.
  • You have pain in your chest.
  • You have a bad headache.
  • You have a stiff neck.
  • Your stomach looks bloated even though you did not eat much.
  • Your skin is pale.
  • You suddenly cannot see well.

Summary

  • Sickle cell anemia is a condition where your red blood cells are shaped like sickles.
  • Follow your doctor’s advice on ways to manage pain, food to eat, activities to do, and steps to take for safe travel.
  • Get medical help right away if you have any signs of infection, such as a fever.
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