Sickle Cell Disease | Treatment

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How is sickle cell disease treated?

Treatment aims to prevent crises and relieve symptoms. If your child has sickle cell disease, he or she is at risk for some infections, lung problems and pain. Your child may need to take an antibiotic (usually penicillin) to prevent bad infections. Also, certain vitamins, like folic acid, can help your child's body replace damaged blood cells. Your child needs to have all of the recommended shots for children and a few special shots.

Your child will need to see your family doctor often for blood tests and to be checked for damage to internal organs. If your child has pain, fever, weakness or trouble breathing, he or she may need IV (intravenous) fluids (liquids given through a needle placed in your child's vein) and antibiotics. Your child may also need oxygen, blood transfusions and strong pain medicines. Special treatments will be needed if your child has organ damage.

What medicines can I use at home to control my pain?

Some over-the-counter medicines might help relieve mild pain. Taking acetaminophen (one brand name: Tylenol) or aspirin might help. Medicines like ibuprofen (two brand names: Advil, Motrin) or naproxen sodium (brand name: Aleve) might help if you can safely take these medicines. However, talk to your doctor before you take any medicine for your pain.

If you have moderate to severe pain, your doctor might prescribe a prescription pain reliever. Make sure to carefully follow your doctor's instructions for taking the medicine.

What else can I do to control the pain?

A heating pad, hot bath, rest or massage might help. Physical therapy to relax and strengthen your muscles and joints might lessen your pain. Individual counseling, self-hypnosis and activities to keep you from thinking about your pain (such as watching television or talking on the telephone) might also help.

It's important for you to have a positive attitude, create a supportive environment, and develop coping skills to help you deal with the disease. Strong family relationships and close personal friends can be helpful. A support group can also help you cope with the disease.

Work with your family doctor to set goals for coping with pain. Becoming more actively involved in your treatment will help you better manage the disease.

Can sickle cell disease be cured?

Usually, no. But with good care, people who have sickle cell disease can live a mostly normal life. Bone marrow transplants can cure the disease in a small number of people.

Bibliography

See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 01/11
Created: 09/90

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